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July 18, 2017

Obfuscation umbrella corporation — IBM’s new servers encrypt everything

by John_A

Why it matters to you

New IBM mainframe could protect your financial and identity information much more so than current Z servers by encrypting everything.

IBM’s new Z mainframe server system has the ability to encrypt all data it handles, whether it’s actively being accessed or modified, or merely sitting idle. Better yet, its encryption keys are designed to “self-destruct,” so if they happen to be tampered with by an outside party, the data is rendered inaccessible until the keys can be safely restored.

Protecting digital data from outside snooping in a world where intelligence agencies have eyes on everything and nation-state hackers seem to have the keys to everyone’s digital back doors, is incredibly difficult. IBM’s new, consistent encryption solution could be one way to combat that oversight though and its new Z servers have the power to do so.

The new Z mainframe leverages up to 32TB of memory and up to a sevenfold increase in cryptographic performance over the previous generation to keep all data stored on the mainframe and moving through them, entirely encrypted. We’re told that the mainframes operate at up to 18 times the speed of comparably specced x86 systems, at just 5 percent the cost.

It also has anti-tamper systems that are able to detect nefarious attacks and quickly neutralize decryption keys. In those cases the data is rendered unreadable by anyone until the keys can be safely recovered.

IBM describes this maneuver to encrypted systems as the “most significant repositioning of mainframe technology in more than a decade,” and that this could dramatically improve the reach of the most advanced encryption protections in the world.

Although that’s a rather grand statement, it isn’t too much a stretch of the imagination. IBM systems currently handle around 87 percent of all credit card transactions, so as Engadget points out, there is a real potential for purchases and other financial transactions to become much more secure in the future. However, major hardware upgrades are not frequent at large corporations, so new Z mainframe could take many years before they are commonplace in any institution, despite their potential.

New Z mainframe could lay the groundwork though for a change of ideals in the tech and political sector. If more data is encrypted as standard, as many social media platforms are moving towards, it may help politicians and major influencers understand how important obfuscating data as standard is.

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