Scotland's Openkast offers new solution to data loss issues

According to George Smith, the firm's director, the technology is designed to assist organisations that need to share data, and to do so whilst protecting the information asset and its content from misuse or inappropriate access.

This process is, he told Infosecurity, achieved at the data level and not through the application layer.

"We have been working on several UK MoD research projects and are currently awaiting award of a funded and business case approved project for deployment ", he said, adding that interest in the secure data sharing technology has also been shown by other deployed organisations for use in Afghanistan.

The base version of the technology, Openkast Assure, is aimed at organisations that want to integrate and share their data, whilst recognising policy relating to 'needs to know' and privacy.

The technology behind Assure, he says, was developed after one of the major private security companies was in Iraq in 2003 and wanted to draw data together for use on the web in support of their activities

"We came up with an XML-based system for them", he said, adding that that solution was an extensible code system that forms the basis for the Assure offering.

"We looked at security from several angles and concluded that, had any of the main DBMS players actually built security into its database technology at the lowest data level in the early days of IT, we wouldn't be in the situation of having to add security into database systems today", he said.

"After we had developed the solution for the major security company, we looked at the record space and realise that large databases in large organisations have the same security problem. Nothing has changed really since 2003 - integrating and sharing data securely hasn’t happened", he added.

Smith explained that, when encryption and other forms of traditional security are added to a relational database, especially with very complex record sets and lots of large textual elements, the search performance of that database starts to be challenged.

"We wanted to go down the path of developing an SQL-free system, in much the same way that Google allows SQL-free searches of its database", he said, adding that the ideal solution needed to exhibit a flat file approach to data hierarchy and also needs to be very efficient.

The problem with most XML-based systems, he told Infosecurity, is that they tend to be data bloated.

"IBM Viper, for example has three indexing modes. Data becomes a lot larger when added to the XML environment. Our approach with Assure has been to shrink the data down, so speeding the rate of access, which in turn means you can easily add security [to the mix]", he said.

And since you are dealing with smaller data sets, Smith says that Assure can complete its searches in the computer's main memory, rather than constantly having to shuffle data to and from disk.

“Assure uniquely”, Smith continued, “scans its potential candidate records to ensure that the security tags and policies are applied prior to sending to the user after applying any record redaction.”

This, he explained, is where Assure's technology comes from, and says he expects to see interest in the software from companies once they realise the potential of the information model.

He added that he also hopes to review the security claims of the technology by working through potential avenues of CESG accreditation.


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