DARPA explores new computer architectures to fix security between systems

Solutions are needed to replace the archaic air-gapping of computers used to isolate and protect sensitive defense information, the U.S. Government has decided. Air-gapping, used often now, is the practice of physically isolating data-storing computers from other systems, computers, and networks. It theoretically can’t be compromised because there is nothing between the machines — there are no links into the machines; they’re removed.

However, many say air-gapping is no longer practical, as the cloud and internet takes a hold of massive swaths of data and communications.

“Keeping a system completely disconnected from all means of information transfer is an unrealistic security tactic,” says Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on its website, announcing an initiative to develop completely new hardware and software that will allow defense communications to take place securely among myriad existing systems, networks, and security protocols.

The Guaranteed Architecture for Physical Security (GAPS) program it is introducing will be split into three formal areas: hardware, software, and validation against Department of Defense (DoD) systems. A fourth realm is also promised, and that’s the commercialization of the elements:

“Commercializing the resulting technologies is also an objective,” the publicly funded DARPA federal agency says. The GAPS program should “create safer commercial systems that could be used for preserving proprietary information and protecting consumer privacy.”

Commercializing something like a defense security architecture — the objective being to secure data as it moves between disparate systems — could ultimately help commerce in a similar way to how the government has assisted the internet by allowing a military-owned, watered-down GPS to be used by all. Getting funding also becomes easier.