Computing with encrypted data

Connect with state & local government leaders
 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Researchers are working on ways to optimize fully homomorphic encryption, which allows manipulation of encrypted data, for real-world applications.

Great strides have been made in the past few years in encrypting and protecting data both at rest and in motion.

The Achilles’ heel of computing, however, remains actually working with the data. Currently, that data first must be decrypted, which means it’s also open to cyberattack and potential theft. One of the holy grails of computing research has been to find a fast and easy way to manipulate data while it’s still encrypted.

One promising solution -- fully homomorphic encryption -- has been known for years. Although substantial progress has been made to improve its performance, FHE is still difficult to implement, and to date there’s been little exploration of how to optimize it for everyday computing.

Galois, a Portland, Ore., security services company, intends to change that with help from a $1 million Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity contract that aims to assess how feasible it is to easily program with FHE. The one-year Rapid MAchine-learning Processing Applications and Reconfigurable Targeting of Security (RAMPARTS) initiative could finally move FHE to where domain experts who have little cryptographic expertise can use it.

A partial solution to computing with encrypted data came out of work done in the 1970s, according to David Archer, principal investigator at Galois. But this “somewhat homomorphic” scheme allowed for computations for only a small number of operations before too much “noise” was introduced, which prevented decryption of the data.

The breakthrough came in 2009, when Craig Gentry, a researcher at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center, described a fully homomorphic scheme that allowed complicated processing even though the data was encrypted and users couldn’t see it.

“However,” Archer said, processing with FHE even five years ago “was still around 12 orders of magnitude slower than computing with the unencrypted data. A [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] program called PROCEED (PROgramming Computation on EncryptEd Data) reduced that to just six orders of magnitude, but that’s still thousands of times slower than computing in the clear.”

That makes computing with FHE much too slow for real-world applications, he said, which is where the “practical and easy-to-use” goal of the RAMPARTS program comes in.

Research on FHE has pushed it to the point where it’s feasible for practical use with some applications, Archer said, but programming for it “is a bit worse than using Assembly language 30 years ago. We need a system where domain experts, not necessarily programmers, should be able to take a dataset, homomorphically encrypt it, then send it to my server and it will run and I don’t need to know anything about the code.”

Such a solution would allow people to write code simply, automatically optimize the code -- which he said is now hard to do -- and then easily decrypt the data.

RAMPARTS aims to show how feasible it will be to take FHE and make it easy to program, using currently common languages, and automatically optimize that for a secured computation setting.

Galois pointed to various areas where this kind of encrypted computing would be valuable:

  • Public health analysts could use patient medical records to compute trends such as opioid addiction without having to use unencrypted personal information.
  • Nations could work together to make sure their satellites don’t collide without having to share sensitive data such as trajectory information.
  • Law enforcement could use facial recognition to identify criminals in videos without risking the privacy of individuals.
  • Cyberthreat information could be more easily shared without running the risk of unintentionally revealing proprietary data.

More generally, cloud computing could be made far more secure because users wouldn’t have to decrypt cloud-based data before they perform any operation on it, which would make it vulnerable to cyberattack.

Archer said he believes RAMPARTS will show the feasibility of further development of FHE programming, which means that in around five years’ time, specific applications could be developed. It’s unlikely more general applications will be developed by then, he said, because of the complexity involved.

However, there is already pent-up demand from some areas of government such as the Defense Department for applications that use FHE. Even if RAMPARTS itself won’t produce those solutions, Archer said its success means potential users can begin planning for their deployment, and work out how they will fit operationally into existing ecosystems.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.