The internet creates and propagates data by default. Decades since its development, we now live in the Age of Big Data. From recommendation systems to drug discovery, big data has enabled unprecedented innovations. Yet, the downside of the growth of data, and the shift to digital, is that malware enjoys an exponentially growing attack surface. The number of attacks has risen, and their economic impact has soared. Data centers have struggled to keep up because the growth of the industry makes it more vulnerable, by growing the attack surface. 

The Paradox of Big Data

The paradox of the modern era is that the shift to digital and the use of the internet have, at once, led to the creation of incredible wealth, and, on the other hand, made businesses more vulnerable to malicious attacks. Data exists to be shared, and this only adds to the danger. Our connectivity is both a benefit and a risk. Even today, decades since the internet was first developed, most businesses do not have adequate security. Given the need for greater decentralization, the industry has been able to create platforms that are secure, without giving manufacturers excessive control. We have moved on from the days of Trusted Computing, with its focus on digital rights management (DRM).

Confidential Computing 

The pandemic accelerated the shift to digital and the use of cloud to store data. The reasons are, by now, well known: cloud reduces the infrastructure costs of data storage and places the burden of providing storage services to a specialist who has greater resources and expertise to deliver a secure and efficient product. The use of cloud storage has necessitated the adoption of a new approach, Confidential Computing and the development of Trusted Execution Environment (TEE). 

Confidential computing is a cloud computing technology that segregates sensitive data during processing, placing it in a protected computer enclave. This data and the processing methods involved, are only accessible to authorized code. Not even the cloud provider can access, or even see that data and those processes. TEE refers to a highly trusted environment for executing code.  

Confidential computing has grown in importance thanks to the rising popularity of public cloud and hybrid cloud services. Confidential computing ensures that sensitive data is given special protection and confidentiality on the cloud. Without it, confidence in cloud storage services would not be where it is today. Cloud providers now offer encryption services in storage and databases, when data is being transferred, and now, when the data is being used.

Although these defenses are not impenetrable, dedicated server provider, Evoluso, observes that they create barriers that are so costly and difficult to scale that they are practically, if not theoretically, impenetrable. The costs and difficulties of trying to breach such a system are such that it would not make any economic sense for a malicious actor to try and breach the system.

The development of confidential computing has been hugely beneficial to businesses in highly regulated industries such as financial services, healthcare, and life sciences, where data protection is a legally mandated part of doing business. In addition, government agencies, especially defense and national security, and multi-tenant cloud service providers, have also been able to take advantage of the opportunities that confidential computing provides.

Data Sharing is Not Compromised

Data sharing is essential for the smooth functioning of teams, businesses, government agencies and basically everyone on the planet. In resolving the paradox of Big Data, it was essential not to limit or constrain the ability of users to share data, but to create an environment in which data could be shared without leading to a compromise in the health of computer systems and networks. 

Federated analytics and learning allows parties to work together without having access to underlying data. Insurance companies, for example, could not, in the past, share data, which made it hard to detect instances of fraud, such as double dipping. Now, with the encryption and memory enclave developments we have mentioned, as well as the emergence of enterprise blockchain, these businesses have the ability to privately and securely share data without putting customer data at risk. 

Fraud detection has improved thanks to federated analytics and machine learning. Healthcare delivery has also improved, allowing providers to adhere to HIPAA regulations and other regulations pertaining to patient data, while exploiting the opportunities of an unprecedented amount of data. A powerful example of this is the work done by the University of Pennsylvania, thanks to funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in which brain scans from dozens of healthcare institutions were run on algorithms and compared to unearth insights into the causes of brain tumor. This project would have been impossible without data sharing. Confidential computing makes secure data sharing possible. As data becomes a more important part of the modern economy, confidential computing will play a larger role in making sharing possible.