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World's 'first hack-free' software developed

Scientists have developed what they claim is the world's first hack-free softwarewhich can protect systems from failure or malicious attacks.

The 'seL4' microkernel has been developed by a team led by Australia's ICT Research Centre of Excellence's spinout company -- Open Kernel Labs(OK Labs). It is a small operating system kernel which regulates access to a computer's hardware.

Its unique feature is that it has been mathematically proven to operate correctly, enabling it to separate trusted from untrusted software, protecting critical services from a failure or a malicious attack, say the scientists.

In future applications, seL4 could ensure that trusted financial transaction software from secure sources like banks or stock exchanges can operate securely on a customer's mobile phone alongside "untrusted" software, such as games downloaded from the Internet, according to its developers.

It could also provide a secure and reliable environment for mission-critical defence data, operating on the same platform as everyday applications like email. Or, it could protect the life-supporting functions of an implanted medical device, such as a pacemaker, from hacking, they say.

"Our seL4 microkernel is the only operating system kernel in existence whose source code has been mathematically proven to implement its specification correctly. Under the assumptions of the proof, the seL4 kernel for ARM11 will always do precisely what its specification says it will do," lead scientist Gerwin Klein said.

Added another scientist Gernot Heiser, "Verification of operating-system kernels has been attempted since the 1970s -- we pulled it off!"
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