Cloud computing — outsourcing computational tasks over the Internet — could give home-computer users unprecedented processing power and let small companies launch sophisticated Web services without building massive server farms. But it also raises privacy concerns. A bank of cloud servers could be running applications for 1,000 customers at once; unbeknownst to the hosting service, one of those applications might have no purpose other than spying on the other 999.
In the last 10 years or so, however, it’s become clear that even when a computer is handling encrypted data, its memory-access patterns — the frequency with which it stores and accesses data at different memory addresses — can betray a shocking amount of private information. At the International Symposium on Computer Architecture in June, MIT researchers described a new type of secure hardware component, dubbed Ascend, that would disguise a server’s memory-access patterns, making it impossible for an attacker to infer anything about the data being stored. Grad students working on this project are Ling Ren, Xiangyao Yu, and Christopher Fletcher. Continue reading on MIT NEWS. Photo by Christine Danilofff.