IBM plans to thwart hackers with a cover-all encryption system

IBM Z is the company’s answer to the internet-old problem of secure data storage
Hackers are everywhere. Some are simply looking for opportunistic cash-grabs while others want to access top-secret data and share it amongst nefarious networks. There are also “hacktivists” that look to steal data and disrupt organisations in the name of activism, but one thing is true of all such activities – hacking is worryingly commonplace in the modern, connected world.

To help counter that, IBM has launched a new mainframe system dubbed “IBM Z”. The company claims it claims will revolutionise how data, networks, devices and applications are encrypted. IBM Z is the latest in Big Blue’s mainframe series and a significant step up from x86 systems, which typically encrypt data in chunks.

These x86 systems run a process that IBM said requires a significant labour investment to select and manage individual fields. By contrast, Z can encrypt data, networks, external devices and entire applications with no changes.

IBM said it has been able to achieve this through a 7-fold increase in cryptographic performance versus the previous generation z13 mainframe, driven by a fourfold increase in the amount of silicon dedicated to encryption algorithms. IBM also claim it’s also 18 times faster than what x86-based systems can achieve.

Additionally, this new generation of IBM Z offers “tamper responding” hardware that invalidates the encryption keys if an intrusion is detected.

This may sound drastic, but keys can still be recovered by administrators once the intrusion has been investigated and resolved. The capability can also be extended into other devices like storage systems and cloud servers.

“The vast majority of stolen or leaked data today is in the open and easy to use because encryption has been very difficult and expensive to do at scale,” explained Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM. “We created a data protection engine for the cloud era to have a significant and immediate impact on global data security.”

Indeed, the company has taken some of the technology from its new generation Z mainframe and applied it to IBM Cloud. It will initially be used as an encryption engine for its cloud and to run IBM Blockchain services.

“The powerful combination of IBM Z encryption and secure containers differentiates IBM Blockchain services on the cloud by supporting the trust models new blockchain networks require,” said Marie Wieck, general manager of IBM Blockchain. “Enterprise clients also benefit from the ease of use making management transparent to the application and the user.”


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