Friday, September 11, 2009

Multi-core Processors are Key to Security

MIT Professor and Turing Award Winner Ron Rivest knows a thing or two about security. He invented the RC2, RC4, and RC5 symmetric key encryption algorithms (RC=Rivest Cipher), as well as the MD2, MD4 and MD5 hashing algorithms. He's also the R in RSA, so I got to know him when Jim Bidzos and I were getting VeriSign off the ground (not to mention a few friendly poker games we shared).

Anyway, the community of security researchers continuously strengthen their algorithms to withstand the steady onslaught of attack from cryptographers with increasingly powerful computers. So Rivest has been developing his newest MD6 algorithm on Tilera multi-core processors. Tilera is a Bessemer company that has integrated 64 processors with independent memory, caches and network ports on a single chip known as Tile64.

According to this article from a recent MIT campus paper, NIST won't adopt MD6 as a standard because it's just too slow to run without the Tile64. The inescapable conclusion is that as long as we continue to buy computers built on stale platforms, our security algorithms will be vulnerable to hackers with newer toys.

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