Published: 02nd September 2020
IIT Guwahati researchers develop algorithms to protect information like health data from cyberattacks
The team at IIT Guwahati has been developing indigenous algorithms to protect digital data from cyber-attacks and encryption architectures to protect sensitive health data
A team of researchers from Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, in collaboration with scientists from the University of Pardubice, Czech Republic, is working towards developing indigenous algorithms that can protect the nation’s digital data from cyberattacks by advanced computers. The team has also been credited with designing encryption architectures that can be used to protect sensitive health data that is transmitted through the internet.
Dr Gaurav Trivedi from the Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, who was at the helm, explained why algorithms are the need of the hour, "When we perform the general transactions like on our mobile phones, there is an encryption present. It might be working well now but there are newer and more effective algorithms to secure the channels. The recent advances in computer science, such as the development of the quantum computer, are all set to overthrow Moore’s Law that has ruled the roost for the past half a century. The phenomenal computational power of quantum computers not only embodies possibilities of astronomical progress, but also enormous threats to our data. For example, while sensitive data is stringently protected by encryption (the virtual ‘lock’ for precious data), the power of quantum computers can easily break even apparently 'invincible' encryption codes. It is generally feared that once quantum computers become the predominant workhorse of the near-future digital era, almost all existing data-protective encryption schemes would become vulnerable and obsolete."
The team, consisting of faculty and research scholars, has developed various PQC-based encryption algorithms and designed indigenous soft IPs which can be integrated into Systems-on-Chip (SoC) to protect them from cyberattacks. These algorithms and IPs would enable critical data such as national security data and citizen information to be under unbreakable lock-and-key, thereby enhancing the safety of our nation against cyberattacks. "It has become indispensable to design new encryption schemes that can resist both quantum computer - as well as classical computer-based - attacks," added Dr Trivedi. The team took almost five years to develop these algorithms and integrate them into chips.
They have also worked towards enhancing data security in the healthcare sector, which could be beneficial in the time of the pandemic and years to come. They have used Internet of Things (IoT) technology, which in healthcare already aids in the real-time diagnosis of diseases by keeping a patient digitally connected to a medical expert 24*7, thus avoiding the visits and admissions in the hospital, a facility particularly critical during COVID-19. For example, wearable health sensors, such as ECG devices, can automatically transmit data to the health care provider, but the transmitted data must be encrypted to prevent intentional or accidental modifications to it, which could affect diagnosis and treatment. In fact, the Indian government mandates that only encrypted health data and reports may be transmitted over the Internet. "We have developed an area- and power-efficient Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) architecture that can encrypt and decrypt ECG data for transmission across the Internet. This is also suitable for low power IoT applications. Recently, PM Modi announced that government will digitise all our health records. Data is quite personal and should be encrypted safely if someone needs to get it transmitted that too should be done on a safe server. With the help of IoT technology, we have been progressing towards safe biomedical data transfer to authoritative entities. We have also begun using machine learning and Artificial Intelligence to predict anomalies of the heart — how we can increase life expectancy, chances of heart failure and more," concludes Dr Trivedi.