Security architecture emerges for first responders

Princeton prof pitches “transient trust” for network security

Princeton University researchers say they have come up with a new way to securely transmit crucial rescue information to first responders to situations such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks.

The new architecture supports what Princeton electrical engineering professor Ruby Lee calls "transient trust" -- that is, the ability to swap sensitive data such as floor plans of a building or personal medical information securely on an as-needed basis. A paper ("Hardware-rooted Trust for Secure Key Management and Transient Trust") describing the work by ex-HP computer architect Lee (who leads the Princeton Architecture Lab for Multimedia and Security [PALMS]) and graduate student Jeffrey Dwoskin was presented this week at the Association for Computing Machinery Computer and Communications Security conference in the US.

The paper describes outfitting devices such as handheld computers used by first responders with elements dubbed a "device root key" and a "storage root hash" to enable temporary access to information. Building security from scratch into devices has been a big push for Lee.

"Our research shows that these hardware 'roots of trust' are actually quite deployable on consumer devices like desktop computers or PDAs, and also in sensor networks and larger servers," said Lee, in a statement.

The work is part of the SecureCore multi-university research project, funded by the National Science Foundation Cyber Trust program and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Using network technology to better equip first responders to do their jobs has been a focus for many researchers and network product vendors of late.

Earlier this year the Maryland Department of Transportation announced plans to build a system for identifying first responders in an effort to get emergency workers to disaster sites quickly and efficiently.

In September, a consortium of security vendors dubbed Tiers of Trust aired its plans to make it easier for emergency personnel to identify themselves at the scene of a disaster.

Individual companies such as Cisco have also been increasingly aggressive about building out their first responder gear.

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