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TSD: a Secure and Scalable Service for Sensitive Data and eBiobanks

Gard Thomassen
DescriptionIn the last decade the demand for services for sensitive data – subjected to the Norwegian Personal Data Act §2, point 8 (religion, sex, health, union membership and prosecutions) - has significantly increased. The massive usage of video, MR-imaging and DNA-sequencing of humans has created a strong need for storage and computing resources for sensitive data, by far exceeding the traditional available resources, namely “single offline computer”. The University Center for Information Technology (USIT) at the University of Oslo (UiO) took on the task to create a solution that is both secure, user friendly and scalable. The solution designed and implemented by USIT, namely Services for Sensitive Data (TSD), is a multi-tenant platform for all kinds of IT-services for research. USIT launched the TSD service in May 2014, and offers virtual servers, storage, high performance computing (HPC) and data collection within this secure environment. The system hosts the research projects on virtual servers residing behind a strong firewall with a 2-factor authentication gateway. Each project is assigned to a private sub-net, and secure storage is provided using the new 7PB storage resource “Astrastore” at UiO. A dedicated HPC-resource is installed inside the secure environment to meet computational needs. A PGP encrypted version of the UiO web-questionnaire (Nettskjema) allows secure data harvesting, e.g. from surveys and questionnaires. Furthermore the governmental ID-portal is enabled for use with authentication to Nettskjema, thus allowing time-point studies with strong identification of respondents from the general population. Physical access to the TSD hardware is very restricted. In the Nordics, TSD is presently, as far as we know, one of the most advanced services for sensitive data in operation and maintained by a public research institution.

Gard Thomassen, PhD, University of Oslo

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