Access and Feeds

Security: The Protection of Homomorphic Encryption

By Dick Weisinger

Encryption provides security. With strong enough encryption, data can be fully secured so that no one other than you will be able to access the contents. Ultimately quantum computers may be break the code, but that’s not yet possible.

The problem happens when you need to access the data, especially if you need to process it in someway. The only way to use the data is to first decrypt it in order to get at the contents and then to process it. But while the data is decrypted it is vulnerable to potential hacking.

Homomorphic encryption is a solution to this problem. It is the ability to calculate and process encrypted data without decryption.

Flavio Bergamaschi, IBM researcher, said that “we may not know the extent of where and how HE (homomorphic encryption) can be used. Imagine if you could do the computation on encrypted data. Many of business activities require information sharing, but the sharing of information is only done on a need-to-know basis. There are many things we don’t do because we are not prepared to share the information in its raw format.”

Casimir Wierzynski, senior director at Intel, said that “the technique itself has been around for more than 20 years as a theoretical construct. The criticism has been, okay, you can operate on encrypted data, but it takes you a million times longer than using regular data. It was an academic curiosity. But in the last five years, and especially the last two years, there have been huge advances in the performance of these techniques. We’re not talking about a factor of a million anymore. It’s more like a factor of 10 to 100.”

Currently the market share for homomorphic encryption is about $120 million, but that is expected to grow as the technology matures.

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