New DSTG computer device enhances security and productivity

DSTG

The CDDC is a great example of complementary research. Image credit: Department of Defence.

Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) scientists have collaborated with the CSIRO and partners in academia to develop a computer device that enhances security and productivity, the Cross Domain Desktop Compositor (CDDC). 

The Cross Domain Desktop Compositor allows information and systems to remain physically separated from networks that are accessible to hackers, while enabling users to interact seamlessly with and across those systems. Data is kept safe and usability is enhanced, resulting in faster and more effective decision-making processes. 

The CDDC was originally conceived and prototyped as a hardware-only device by DSTG Defence scientist Mark Beaumont. 

“For individuals, small businesses and government departments alike, failing to keep important information secure could have serious consequences,” Beaumont said.  

“But for large organisations that need to put in place more advanced security arrangements, like Defence, ensuring that information is secure might entail a trade-off that makes it harder for employees to do their jobs.” 

Sometimes it makes sense to intentionally impede the flow of data inside an organisation by preventing computer networks from communicating with each other. 

“Within many classified organisations, networks with different security classifications are isolated. This approach greatly enhances security but is sub-optimal in terms of productivity,” Beaumont said. 

To overcome this challenge, collaboration between DSTG, CSIRO and University of Melbourne associate professor Toby Murray led to developments that underpinned the mathematically proven security of the CDDC. 

“The world is more connected and reliant on online data and services than ever before, making those services an attractive target for hackers,” Beaumont said.  

“Data is key for sectors like Defence, critical infrastructure and finance, where there’s a need to process and share information, while still keeping it safe. By combining secure hardware with the world-leading verified operating system seL4 and backed by cutting-edge mathematical analysis, the Cross Domain Desktop Compositor provides productivity benefits for information sharing while reducing the risk of attack.” 

Beaumont and Murray worked together to redesign the CDDC to include software components, increasing its flexibility and enhancing usability. Later research resulted in methods that proved the device’s software-based design was secure. 

The computer device is in the running for a Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia. 

“While it’s a privilege to be selected as a finalist, it’s actually recognition of a much greater team effort and the strength of the research partnership,” Beaumont said.  

The CDDC is undergoing a technology-transition process from laboratory research to prototype, with a production-ready device expected in the first half of next year.