Data Center Protection with Cyber-Physical Defenses

Web Published:

Princeton Docket #12-2821-1


Researchers at Princeton University have developed a novel method for the protection of data stored in computer data centers, such as used by Google, Facebook, Amazon and other cloud computing providers. Physical attacks compromising the security of information technology infrastructures have been identified as one of the most overlooked aspects of data center security. The new method provides protection from physical attacks, such as an unauthorized break-in or insider entry, in which the perpetrator attempts to take the actual hard drive, or remove the information stored on it at the physical site of storage. The method combines physical sensors with cyber defenses in a novel manner.

Existing or added physical sensors, such as motion sensors, 'door open' sensors or digital surveillance analysis can be used to trigger three increasing levels of response, depending on the type of attack, persistence of the attack, available response time, and security goals to be achieved. The response can be deletion of data from computing equipment, encryption of the data within the computing equipment, or removal (migration) of the data to another location. Cost and time factors can dictate which defenses are used first, second, or not at all.

The response can also be tailored to the attack, i.e., as sensors detect the intruder, the equipment closest to the intruder can be defended first. This sensor feedback can be used to ensure that the code and data are continuously protected.



Physical Attack Protection with Human-secure Virtualization in Data Centers
Jakub Szefer, Pramod Jamkhedkar, Yu-Yuan Chen, Ruby Lee, Princeton University

Workshop on Open Resilient human-aware Cyber-physical Systems
Monday June 25, 2012


Faculty Inventor


Ruby B. Lee is the Forrest G. Hamrick Professor in Engineering and Professor of Electrical Engineering at Princeton University, with an affiliated appointment in the Computer Science Department. She is the director of the Princeton Architecture Laboratory for Multimedia and Security (PALMS). Professor Lee is an expert in hardware-enhanced security and has designed architectures for secure processors, secure caches that do not leak information through side-channel attacks, and secure servers for cloud computing. Her research is in the intersection of computer architecture and cyber security. She is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). She holds over 120 U.S. and international patents.


Development Status


Princeton is seeking to identify appropriate partners for the further development and commercialization of this technology.




Michael Tyerech
Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing

(609) 258-6762•


Laurie Bagley
Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing

(609) 258-5579•

Patent Information:
Computers and Software
For Information, Contact:
Chris Wright
Licensing Associate
Princeton University
Ruby Lee
Jakub Szefer
Pramod Jamkhedkar
Yu-Yuan Chen
data security