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Telecoms, networks, multimedia

A completely new facility to support cutting-edge computer security work


Located at the heart of the Inria Nancy - Grand-Est centre, the High-Security Computing Laboratory (known by its French acronym LHS) is designed to cater to decisive research work for making networks, Internet exchanges and associated telecommunications equipment safe. The LHS provides the technological and regulatory framework needed for scientific advances that accompany developments in our technological society. Open to industrial partners, the laboratory also represents a favourable opportunity for the reliability tests that are needed before various technological products or solutions can be put on the market.

A secure environment

Placed in an enclosed environment with an isolated Internet network and protected facilities accessible by biometric recognition, the laboratory offers a reliable technological and regulatory framework in which to conduct sensitive tests and operations. It is divided into three separate areas: with a workroom for the researchers, a clusters room and a "red" room, it is designed to guarantee the security of the data, phenomena and equipment analysed.

Three main fields of expertise

Virology: how can tomorrow's viruses be recognised?

Researchers from the CARTE team analyse malicious codes and develop the anti-virus solutions of the future.

They have developed a new virus detection method that takes a fundamental parameter into account: the ability of viruses to mutate, just like living viruses. Awarded a prize in the 2009 national competition to encourage innovative technology businesses in the "Emergence" category, their technique allows the virus' signature or skeleton to be extracted, namely the part of the program that does not change despite the mutations.

"This outcome enables us to envisage anti-virus programs that are more effective because they are capable of recognising viruses even once they have mutated. There are other scientific challenges to be faced, such as developing methods for identifying new viruses whose skeleton we don't yet recognise! With the LHS, we have the environment we need to run our tests in the future ," says Jean-Yves Marion, the CARTE team's director.

In addition, the CARTE team is working on neutralising botnets, networks of infected computers that are used for sending spam and which could also be used to attack Internet services. The researchers are also taking an interest in other vulnerable technology platforms such as telephones and embedded systems (e.g. in cars etc.)

Network supervision: how can network exchanges be analysed and made secure?

Researchers from the MADYNES team are studying major communication systems to understand their functioning and to implement analysis and control systems, notably for combating security failures.

Their latest achievements include the design of an algorithm enabling probes to be placed on a large network pair by pair and allowing activity on this network to be observed. The researchers have succeeded in analysing the traffic on a network with 4 million machines by placing around twenty probes and without having to resort to large computing capacities. "Several areas of application have already been envisaged, notably as part of the French National Research Agency's MAPE programme, to help the appropriate authorities in their fight against cyber crime ," says Olivier Festor, the team's director.

Detection of vulnerabilities in communicating systems: enabling industry to conduct reliability tests

In the design and certification phase, equipment manufacturers need to be able to test their equipment's reliability and to evaluate its resistance to different types of attacks or threats. With an insulated Internet network and ultra-secure equipment, the LHS is a perfect place for conducting these types of tests.

The risks identified include telephony services over the Internet in particular. In this field, researchers from the MADYNES team have developed a software suite called KIF, which allows telephony over IP weaknesses to be detected automatically.

A completely new structure in  France

The High-Security Computing Laboratory of the Inria Nancy - Grand-Est Centre has received funding from the ERDF, the Region of Lorraine, the Greater Nancy Metropolitan District and the French Ministry for Higher Education and Research via the Regional Research and Technology Delegation.
 The research undertaken is carried out in partnership with universities in Lorraine, the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the General Delegation for Ordinance.

Keywords: Software Security Laboratoire Anti-virus Virus Attaque Botnet Network