Researchers at ETH Zürich are planning to develop a fundamentally new security architecture for data exchanges on the internet. This should increase trust in online processes around the world. This pioneering project has been made possible by a huge donation from the Werner Siemens Foundation.

At the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), plans are in place to close existing security gaps when transmitting sensitive data. According to a press release issued by ETH, three of its professors are planning to lay the technical groundwork for the secure and trustworthy processing of transactions conducted in the digital world. To this end, they will work with the Usable Security And Privacy working group, which is based at the Institute of Computer Science at the University of Bonn. The project has been set up to run for eight years.

This new “Center for Digital Trust” is being supported by the Werner Siemens Foundation with a donation of 9.83 million Swiss francs. “Information security is one of the major challenges of our time. The pioneering nature of this project fits in perfectly with the ethos of our foundation”, commented Hubert Keiber, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Werner Siemens Foundation.

David Basin, ETH Professor for Information Security, is convinced that the internet needs a fundamental redesign of security architectures: “The certificates used to sign digital data today are issued by over 1,400 authorities all over the world. Whether this system is really reliable is in serious doubt”. Approaches aimed at solving this issue such as the Certificate Transparency project from Google or authentication using geographical data are not going far enough from the perspective of the ETH researchers.

“Our technologies don’t require any global changes to the internet and can be used alongside today’s infrastructure,” explains Peter Müller, ETH Professor of Programming Methodology, before adding: “Since our goal is to make the internet fundamentally more secure, we are naturally looking for the outcome of our project to find widespread use”.

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