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Data61 partners with Hensoldt Cyber for defence systems cyber protection

Announced during D61+ LIVE, the partnership is expected to secure cyber-physical systems through Data61's seL4.

Data61, the innovation arm of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), has announced a partnership with Germany's Hensoldt Cyber that will focus on defending against cyber attacks.

Under the arrangement announced at D61+ LIVE on Wednesday, the pair will be developing a hardware-software stack to protect against cyber attacks on defence systems, smart factories, autonomous vehicles, and critical infrastructure.

Data61 said the partnership will secure cyber-physical systems through seL4, which was developed by Data61's Trustworthy Systems group.

The group will adapt the operating system to run on Hensoldt Cyber processors, and will extend seL4's existing correctness proofs to apply to that hardware, Data61 explained.

"seL4 is provably secure, but its security guarantee relies on the assumption that the underlying hardware is trustworthy," chief research scientist for Data61's Trustworthy Systems group Professor Gernot Heiser said.

"We are excited to work with Hensoldt Cyber, putting seL4 at the core of a security-focussed integrated hardware-software stack to secure critical infrastructure."

Hensoldt Cyber is a joint venture of German companies Hensoldt and Secure Elements. Stood up just a year ago, it's charged with the development of IT solutions for cyber-physical systems deployed in industry and defence.

seL4 is a proven-correct secure operating system that's already being used in Qualcomm modem chips, amongst others, as well as by Apple for the iOS secure enclave. The US Defense Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) is using it in experiments with Boeing on an autonomous drone helicopter, and in autonomous trucks that are already driving the streets of Detroit.

Data61 last September revealed plans to commercialise the seL4 operating system.

PDF Download: From a Proven Correct Microkernel to Trustworthy Large Systems

The innovation body and the Australian government's Defence Science and Technology Group (DST) partnered to build a Cross-Domain Desktop Compositor (CDDC), a single interface powered by the seL4 microkernel operating system, that gives users access to multiple computer networks.

"Those that favour usability over security are generally vulnerable to cyber-attacks, resulting in leakage of secret data from one network to another," Data61 said at the time. "In contrast, those that favour security over usability prohibit simultaneous access to data from multiple domains on the same screen."

Data61's seL4 microkernel operating system is also used in autonomous helicopters and trucks, as well as in DST's hardware security innovation.

The partnership with Hensoldt Cyber follows Data61 chief Adrian Turner sharing concern that Australia is lagging its global peers when it comes to innovation.

Seven of the top 10 global companies by market cap are platform companies, but Data61 under the guidance of Turner is looking to a future where a distributed business model has the potential to dethrone the kings.

Turner said during his keynote on Tuesday that Data61 is questioning the algorithm behind a successful business model, and if a platform model can evolve into one that boasts a more distributed, federated value chain, where more than one entity is participating.

"We think we're heading towards a new class of entity that we're calling industry utilities -- shared infrastructure, data cooperatives, open standards-based with more participants in the value chain benefiting," he explained.

Turner is keen to explore whether this model is potentially a new way for the country to accelerate in innovation.

Disclosure: Asha McLean travelled to D61+ LIVE as a guest of Data61

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