Suffolk company develops unique technology to defend our devices against cyber-attacks

Professor Klaus McDonald-Maier of Metrarc

Professor Klaus McDonald-Maier of Metrarc - Credit: Archant

A ground-breaking tech company that recently relocated from Cambridge to Suffolk has been working with University of Essex researchers on technology designed to make our online data safer.

Dr Karl Heeks of Metrarc

Dr Karl Heeks of Metrarc - Credit: Archant

Encryption technology company Metrarc, which has just moved to the Innovation Martlesham cluster at Adastral Park, has developed unique technology which creates security for encryption without storing keys.

The ICMetrics technology generates unique identifiers for electronic devices, and therefore enables secure encrypted communications between devices.

It was recently the subject of a £100,000, 12-month feasibility project funded by the government agency Innovate UK.

The technology can help improve the security of a specific type of blockchain called permissioned blockchains. In contrast to crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin, permissioned blockchains are much more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Dr Karl Heeks, who is an advisor for Metrarc, explained that all other technology currently on the market creates keys which then have to be stored somewhere, and can potentially therefore be hacked. “IC Metrics creates a key, but doesn’t store it,” he said. “It uses the characteristics of the device to create a key for the encryption purpose, and if you want to decrypt it, you can. None of the templates are stored either. It gives a powerful added layer of security, because it’s very difficult to crack.”

So far, the technology has been developed and demonstrated, and Dr Heeks and his team are now looking to commercialise it.

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“We are currently looking for an early adaptor, a company with an interest in high security, who might take this technology forward and implement it in one of their applications,” he explained.

Metrarc’s chief executive, Professor Klaus McDonald-Maier, who also works for the University of Essex’s School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, said that the potential impact of this work is “enormous.”

The technology could be harnessed for use in medical devices and The Internet of Things (IOT), as well as in the financial world. Dr Heeks believes the need for such technology is becoming increasingly urgent, given the increasing frequency of global cyber-attacks. “Because there is so much malpractice now, it gives companies wanting to secure their products an added layer of security,” he said.