Trusted computing: it's not just cybersecurity anymore

The ability to ensure accuracy in real-time, life- and mission-critical computing is one of the most important aspects of embedded computing today. The rise of multicore processors, parallel processing, real-time networking, and precision timing means the hardware and software engineer has a lot more to worry about than cybersecurity to make sure computing results are correct.

John Keller New
John Keller New

The ability to ensure accuracy in real-time, life- and mission-critical computing is one of the most important aspects of embedded computing today. The rise of multicore processors, parallel processing, real-time networking, and precision timing means the hardware and software engineer has a lot more to worry about than cybersecurity to make sure computing results are correct. That's where trusted computing comes in.

This term, as we see it, means that the computer consistently will behave in expected ways, and that computer hardware and software will enforce those behaviors. Because of the importance of the trusted computing discipline, Military & Aerospace Electronics is changing the name of its Cyber Security e-newsletter to Trusted Computing. The reason is there are many more aspects of modern, high-performance, complex embedded computing than cybersecurity issues. There's far more to go wrong in today's embedded computing than a cyber hack.

Timing can be compromised, which can bring down a tactical network, the compute chain in multicore parallel processing can get out of sync, an unanticipated computer bug can change results, software upgrades can go wrong, and many other factors can threaten the integrity of computers on which lives and missions depend. There are future errors we haven't even dreamed of, and we need to be ready.

Trusted computing involves a wider universe than cybersecurity and we're trying to cover all the angles, from safety-critical computing to cyber defenses, anti-tamper, precision networking, and more.

Certainly, trusted computing also has a narrower meaning and we're covering that, too. Many in the embedded computing industry understand trusted computing to involve loading hardware with a unique encryption key accessible to the rest of the system. This is crucially important, and our coverage will encompass this discipline.

In short, we view trusted computing as involving any kind of hardware and software architecture, design, tool, algorithm, or anything else that will ensure the validity of computing results. Lives can depend on this, and that's why we take it so seriously.

Anyone in the computing industry supplying mission- and life-critical military systems, this is about you. If your company is involved in trusted computing in any, we want to hear from you. Please e-mail news and product announcements to jkeller@pennwell.com.

We're planning a one-day technical conference on trusted computing sometime next year, and we're looking for industry experts to present their views, technologies, products, contracts, and forecasts. You'll be hearing more on this in the next several weeks and months.

As we work up to our one-day technical conference on trusted computing in November 2018, we will be working with industry to nail-down the definition of trusted computing. As part of this process, we'll be sponsoring webcasts in December 2017 and March 2018 to flesh-out how trusted computing influences computer hardware and software.

We realize that there is probably no one company that specializes in every aspect of trusted computing. Instead, we envision an industry pie chart that encompasses trusted computing. The pie chart has separate sectors of the trusted computing industry, and within each sector we see a range of companies with specific bands of relevant expertise.

We want to know how and where you fit into the dynamic trusted computing industry. Sit down with your colleagues and map out where your company plays in trusted computing. At the same time, we'll be focusing our definition of what trusted computing means, what it doesn't mean, and what companies are involved.

Trusted computing: It's not just cybersecurity anymore.

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