Why is Confidential Computing the New Trend in Cybersecurity?

Mar 8, 2024 | Security, Blog | 0 comments

Today, cybersecurity has become a critical concern for virtually all tech-based organizations. Just in the last few years, we have seen cyberattacks, financial fraud for billions, and ransomware that bring companies to a standstill. Organizations face these challenges while managing and securing the explosion of data generated. For 2023, and of course, in the near future, these challenges and risks are expected to increase more and more rapidly.

As predicted by Cybersecurity Ventures, global damages are to exceed $10.5T per year by 2025, increasing at the rate of 15% annually over the last five years. This increase in risks demands better security, and now, we are seeing a new frontier emerging called confidential computing. But before digging deeper into it, let’s first have a look at some grim but key statistics on cyberattacks.

The Need for Additional Security

Data is the most valued asset any organization can have and potentially impacts its long-term success. While a number of technologies and software, like Virtual Private Networks (VPN), protect the company’s environment, more robust measures are needed to secure data that is actively moving from one location to another. Data needs to be encrypted and then decrypted to be used, and that processing can often take place with third parties like a cloud service vendor. Since the data stored at this stage is unencrypted, this leaves it vulnerable. For Windows users, for example, incorporating even a low-priced VPN specifically for Windows OS can further enhance the security of data during its transit, providing an additional layer of protection against potential threats.

Cybercriminals often exploit this vulnerability to get unauthorized access to a system, where they can run malicious code and steal confidential information. In 2020, IBM’s average cost of the data breach was $3.68M. It showed a 9.8% increase in just one year, i.e., $4.24M. In addition, cybersecurity is not just a concern for big organizations. About 43% of cyberattacks target SMBs, and more than half of those that are attacked go out of business within six months. So, to put an extra layer of security, engineers have come up with the most promising advancement in the industry, i.e., confidential computing.

Confidential Computing – What Is It?

As data breaches are widespread now, and companies deal with more and more regulated and crucial data, confidential computing is a new trend in cybersecurity that plays a crucial role in keeping data safe and secure. It is the protection of data that uses a hardware-based Trusted Execution Environment (TEE), providing assurance of data integrity and confidentiality. This reduces the risk of exposing data to the rest of the system during decryption, thereby making confidential data less vulnerable and offering greater control and transparency for users.

More precisely, this cyber security method isolates crucial information and puts it in an individual, protected environment using cloud technology. Consequently, data becomes inaccessible to anyone without an authorized application code. Therefore, neither the cloud partner that owns the server nor the OS running on the machine can read or change the data. This indicates that companies can run sensitive software on public clouds or other hosted environments without getting their data exposed.

Its usefulness is now widely recognized by an increasing number of enterprises operating in today’s distributed work environment. With cybersecurity threats on the rise, Everest Group predicts the confidential computing industry will expand at a CAGR of about 95% to reach $54B by 2026. To help companies deal with repeated security threats, confidential computing offers hardware-level security, confidentiality, and privacy.

How Confidential Computing Could Benefit Critical Industries

Confidential computing – an extension of cybersecurity – gives customers complete control over their data. In addition to increased protection, it has wide-reaching implications that could benefit a number of sectors. Let’s take a look at how this method helps the major industries in protecting sensitive data:

1. Healthcare

In the past, the healthcare industry was slow to adjust to the latest technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in particular. However, to deal with the new challenges brought on by the pandemic, many healthcare organizations have implemented these technologies to handle the data volume and complexity and improve patient care and outcomes.

Like other traditional enterprises, confidential computing protects sensitive healthcare data and intellectual property contained in the AI algorithms, even on untrusted infrastructure or the public cloud. It combines the data of multiple medical centers for training AI in detecting conditions, such as CT scans. This lets hospitals work together concomitantly while ensuring the data privacy of the patient.

2. Automobile

Using confidential computing, sensor data in the auto industry from networked automobiles can be collected and processed in an end-to-end encrypted and verifiable manner.

3. Finance

Finance is another industry where data protection between two parties can be beneficial. Confidential computing allows financial firms to exchange data without exposing it. Institutions can use this method to share data with each other to increase fraud detection rates and see to money laundering scenarios without leaving their customers’ personal data vulnerable. This can help save thousands of dollars and increase effectiveness by safeguarding these financial institutions while they look for criminals.

Tech Giants Leading the Way

There have been many advancements in confidential computing in the past few years. Google Cloud is the company’s confidential computing offering, and it lets customers encrypt their data as they use it through advanced CPUs. It also allows people to work together without compromising security, which is important for businesses performing dynamic processes. Plus, Google has introduced confidential computing virtual machines on the Google Computer Engine, powered by the 2nd Generation AMD EPYC processors’ security.

Then, there is Intel’s technology called Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX), which offers hardware-based memory encryption that segregates some application code and data in memory. Microsoft Azure also has a cloud computing service to secure business and consumer data while they use it. It saves data in hardware and processes it post-verification of the cloud environment to ensure maximum security.

Another name to watch is IBM, which offers a myriad of confidential computing services, including IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Services (offering end-to-end data protection), IBM Cloud Data Shield (for containerized software), and Secure Execution for Linux (for hybrid cloud environments). Some lesser-known companies, like the top Israeli cyber firm Hub Security, are also coming up with some promising innovations in confidential computing. This company uses a range of hardware and software solutions to store data and some AI applications to keep track of data and model potential threats constantly. This could be useful in solving some of the problems in the finance and healthcare sectors outlined previously.

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Takeaway

To recapitulate, confidential computing is a cutting-edge encryption technology that could revolutionize data use. It takes a different approach by shifting the maximum focus on data protection, even when it is in use, which is not possible using any other technology. According to experts, this technology could significantly impact the security industry, including fewer cybersecurity costs, the rapid evolution of mission-critical applications, and the creation of new tools to evaluate and monitor security across various environments. Considering all this, it is easy to say that confidential computing should have a noteworthy impact on the security market in the coming years. As soon as it reaches mass adoption, we can expect enhancements in the core technology and remarkable effectiveness in its operations.

Sources:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2022/03/31/why-now-is-the-time-for-confidential-computing/?sh=4ad2631b176a

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