CDDC wins iAwards

June 27th, 2017

Data61’s Trustworthy Systems Research Team sweep SA’s iAwards with three wins for their collaboration with DST Group on the Cross Domain Desktop Compositor (CDDC)

An example setup of the CDDC
Three computers with different privilege levels attached to the CDDC, which securely composites them into a single desktop.

Internet connectivity, and the information access and exchange that it enables, is rightly seen as a major driver of innovation and has transformed myriad industries. However, it has also brought with it the scourge of cyber attacks and data privacy breaches. As the world approaches hyper connectivity — think 8.4 billion ‘connected things’ by 2020 (Gartner) — the problem of how to tame the security challenges of connectivity, while keeping its benefits, has become increasingly urgent.

In many sectors, this challenge requires deploying separate, isolated networks. Defence is the classic example, deploying a separate network for each security classification to ensure that classified data remains isolated. But more broadly, medical networks, financial networks, and industrial control networks all need to be adequately protected, and often this means keeping them isolated from the public internet. Doing so naturally curtails connectivity’s benefits in order to tame its threats. But can we have the best of both worlds: a seamless user experience with access and secure exchange of data from physically isolated networks?

Current solutions fall well short of this goal. Those that maintain some form of security and physical isolation do not provide a rich, seamless user experience. The tension between isolation and connectivity means that security is all too often compromised for the sake of connectivity: networks that should otherwise be isolated are connected regardless. Often as soon as the networks become connected they can be (and are) attacked

The Trustworthy Systems team has been working in collaboration with DST Group to solve this challenge, by developing the Cross Domain Desktop Compositor (CDDC).

The CDDC is an appliance that allows multiple physically-isolated computer networks to be securely accessed through a single, seamless rich user interface.” says A/Prof. Kevin Elphinstone (Principal Researcher, Data61; Associate Professor, UNSW, “Additionally, it can support controlled transfer of data between networks via intuitive copy-and-paste gestures.”

seL4 microkernel

The CDDC is a perfect exemplar of the mission of the Trustworthy Systems team – We will fundamentally change the way real-world software systems are built and engineered, with their trustworthiness assured to the highest degree possible — the certainty of mathematical proof — while being cheaper than traditional low- to medium-assurance systems.

Our collaboration with DST Group in developing the CDDC (and the related R&D) embodies our first strategic prototype appliance developed towards realising this mission.

With three iAwards now under our belt for Research and Development Project of the Year, Infrastructure and Platforms Innovation of the Year and Public Sector and Government Markets iAward, we’re celebrating the combined team’s innovations.

The three awards won by the CDDC project
The three awards won by the CDDC project

Although Defence use cases are important and are our first focus market, the potential applications for the CDDC and for full stack Trustworthy Systems capabilities are far broader, and include government and enterprise while spanning a range of application areas (IoT, health, and autonomous systems).

“Our collaboration with DST Group has not only accelerated the technical development of the CDDC, but is also helping to drive our ongoing research into producing deeply verified, secure seL4-based systems, especially in areas such as secure information flow. Additionally, it has provided us with key insights in how to develop a local industry capability for Australian Defence and our Defence partners.” says Dr Toby Murray (Senior Researcher, Data61; Lecturer, University of Melbourne).

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