With an expected compound annual growth rate of up to 95.6% between 2021 and 2026, confidential computing is poised to become one of the hottest trends in cybersecurity in the next few years — especially in high-risk sectors (and some of our most important ones), such as finance and healthcare.
Let’s look at how it’s changing the game regarding storing confidential data and which companies are paving this innovative way.
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What is confidential computing?
Digitalization has always come with a dilemma about what happens to personal information. Events like the Cambridge Analytica scandal and numerous accounts of major organizations having their systems hacked highlight how much is at risk when we use computers and technology.
It is bad enough on an individual level — nobody wants their bank details or intimate photos stolen. But for businesses and governments, the consequences of reaching sensitive information are even more worrying. And there is a reason for worry — one report found that the number of data breaches in 2021 grew by 17% compared to 2020. So the problem, as it seems, is here to stay.
Confidential computing offers a solution by protecting data while it’s still in use. Unlike most encryption methods, it focuses on data that are still being processed (when it remains unencrypted in memory) rather than after. More specifically, it isolates sensitive information and puts it in a separate, protected enclave, usually using cloud technology. Then, nobody can access the data without an authorized application code — and if an unauthorized code (such as malware) tries to get in, they’re denied access.
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How confidential computing could change the world
Understanding the theory of confidential computing is a great start, but to deeply comprehend its potential, you must look at use cases. Given the term itself has “confidential” in the name, the method is an extension of cybersecurity. Since almost every business now relies on cybersecurity to look after its data on some level, the applications could reach just about any sector or industry; however, it’s most beneficial for the companies that face the highest risk when handling data — such as finance and healthcare companies.
Financial services like banks have always been targets for hacking attacks, potentially resulting in losses of hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s therefore a natural place to implement serious cybersecurity measures.
Confidential computing would allow different financial institutions to exchange data without leaving it vulnerable — for example, banks could share data and carry out analysis, allowing them to identify potentially suspicious patterns, which would make it easier to spot cases of fraud earlier on.
Our health is crucial to practically everything else we do in life, and sharing data with healthcare providers is unavoidable. But sharing it with the wrong hands, like information about our DNA or diseases, could cause serious problems. Cybersecurity is vital here, and confidential computing could provide a solution by protecting data even as healthcare professionals use it.
Confidential computing could pave the way for uses of the data that may have been deemed too risky previously. For example, collecting data on patients in critical condition and using AI to find patterns and understand what they may be suffering from. Meanwhile, healthcare organizations have been infamously slow to adjust to these new technologies, partly due to the complications of securing the data.
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Companies leading the way
Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest names in tech and computing are leading the way regarding confidential computing.
Google Cloud is Google’s confidential computing offering, and it allows customers to encrypt their data as they use it through advanced CPUs. Plus, it allows people to collaborate without compromising security, which is crucial for businesses carrying out dynamic processes.
Then there’s IBM, which has a range of confidential computing services, including IBM Cloud Hyper Protect Cloud Services (providing end-to-end protection), IBM Cloud Data Shield (for containerized applications) and Secure Execution for Linux (for hybrid cloud environments).
Another name to watch is Microsoft Azure, Microfot’s cloud computing service to protect business and consumer data as they’re using it. Microsoft stores data in hardware and processes it after verifying the cloud environment to ensure security.
But there are also some lesser-known companies with some promising innovations. One of them is the leading Israeli cyber company Hub Security, which uses a variety of hardware and software solutions to store data, alongside AI tools to monitor data and model potential threats continuously. This could help solve some of the problems in healthcare and finance outlined previously.
Hub has already approved a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company worth $1.28 billion. The deal will give Hub $172 million to fund its business and potential money from institutional investors in Israel and the U.S. The deal shows that investors recognize its potential — as far as picking early winners in confidential computing goes, it seems like one to watch.
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A more confidential future?
As confidential computing reinvents how business and security are carried out across various sectors, the companies at the heart of the industry, who provide the technology and the tools needed for confidential computing, are set to thrive and grow rapidly.