Startup offers rootkit protection, partitioning

Integrity Global Security platform used in military fighters

Although it uses different terminology, start-up Integrity Global Security is coming out with a businesses version of technology used on military fighters and bombers that can provide the features of virtual machines but with built-in security.

Called Integrity, the software runs on PC and server hardware, and creates secure partitions in which conventional operating systems can run.

The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Green Hill Software, which has been selling Integrity to the military and other government agencies for years. The difference is that Integrity Global Security will sell to businesses the software that has been deployed in weapons systems aboard the B-1B bomber, and F-16, F-22 and F-35 fighters.

The software is a component of systems and networks that require that varying levels of classified data be insulated from each other but also that controlled interactions be allowed to accomplish tasks. In the business world, Integrity Global Security will sell Integrity to businesses concerned about the confidentiality of their resources and the reliability of their servers and desktops.

The software is analogous to a virtual-machine hypervisor in that it is not an operating system but an abstraction layer that sits between the hardware and the operating systems running on the hardware. The difference, the company says, is that Integrity provides a buffer layer that protects the operating systems on top of it from malware that may have infected the basic hardware below. This would guard against so-called Blue Pills, malicious software that controls a hypervisor. The Blue Pill also simulates the underlying hardware so the hypervisor is unaware of the Blue Pill; it thinks it is running on the hardware.

Integrity also securely partitions the virtual environments running on top of it from each other. Integrity partitions are called padded cells; they can be configured to allow communication with certain cells but not with others. In virtual-machine parlance, this is like building in virtual firewalls that insulate one virtual machine from others in accordance with a corporate rule set.

This feature has proven itself useful in military agencies that have a hierarchy of security profiles for applications, says Integrity Global Security CEO David Chandler. Integrity can be used to ensure that applications ranked secret are in padded cells that can't access applications ranked top secret that are hosted in other padded cells, for instance, he says.

The platform has already been sold by Green Hill Software and deployed on military aircraft to partition onboard systems, Chandler says. Integrity has earned a lengthy list of government and industry security standards, most recently a ranking by the international Common Criteria Agreement organization that says the platform can "protect high-value assets from significant risks." This has earned it an evaluation assurance level of EAL6+.

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