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Software tool allows programs to run faster without sacrificing security


April 3, 2011

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed some software that helps programs to run more efficiently without sacrificing security features (Image credit: Ziko-C)

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed some software that helps programs to run more efficiently without sacrificing security features (Image credit: Ziko-C)

Protecting computer systems from malicious attack using complex software solutions is a constant, but necessary, struggle. As threats become more sophisticated, the technology used to fight them off can impact more and more on system performance. According to researchers from North Carolina State University, programs that have built-in safety features can be slowed down by as much as a 1,000 percent. To combat this issue they have developed technology that helps such programs to run more efficiently without sacrificing effectiveness.

Safety features known as meta functions "can slow a program down so much that software developers will often leave them out entirely," according to team leader Dr. James Tuck. "Leaving out those features can mean that you don't identify a problem as soon as you could or should, which can be important - particularly if it's a problem that puts your system at risk from attack."

The new tool takes advantage of the multi-core architecture of modern chips to process the safety features over different cores to those used by the main program. Although the multi-core approach is not new, the new helper technology developed by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering team is said to significantly improve the efficiency of the parallel processing of off-loaded safety features.

"To give you some idea of the problem, we saw the application we were testing being slowed down by approximately 580 percent," said Dr. Tuck. "Utilizing our software tool, we were able to incorporate safety meta functions, while only slowing the program down by approximately 25 percent. That's a huge difference."

The software tool is implemented as a plug-in for the Gnu Compiler Collection of software tools and functions automatically, requiring no manual reprogramming.

A Paper detailing the new development - entitled Automatic Parallelization of Fine-Grained Meta-Functions on a Chip Multiprocessor and co-authored with Ph.D student Sanghoon Lee - will be presented at the International Symposium on Code Generation and Optimization in Chamonix, France on April 5.

Dr. Tuck says that his team is currently fine-tuning the software ahead of an open source release later this year.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

How can a program be slowed down by anything more than 100 percent? At 100% slowdown it would be stopped. Maybe the "580% slowdown" was more like 1/6th performance? The paper gets it right: "Also, our approach introduces very little overhead in the main program - it is kept under 100%, which is more than a 5.3x reduction compared to serial Mudflap"


There is already a long proven solution for this dilemma. It\'s a call a MAC. I\'ve not run a virus software in 4 years. I don\'t miss Windows and all the crazy virus stuff at all.

Once you go Mac, you over go back.


Oops. Once you go Mac, you NEVER go back.


i cant see this working

adam smolkowicz


While it is true that Mac computers are up to now much safer than PCs (it will change with the increasing number of people using Macs) not every computing need can be filled with Macs. There are still many programs that are not Mac compatible. I am thinking here about most of the engeneering programs, by example. Not to mention the gaming experience, that is so important to many people and almost absent form Macs.

If you only go on the Internet and sometime write a text or two, then there is no reason not to buy a Mac (if you can afford it). But if you want to push a little, in many cases the Mac becomes useless.


I have to agree with alcalde above. The very fact that the quoted Dr Tuck doesn\'t even understand basic fundamental percentages kills off his credibility from the start. 1000 percent is a number you expect to see quoted in a \'snake oil\' advert.

The project might be perfectly valid, but the spokesperson appears to exemplify the \'Peter Principal\'.

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