(photo credit: Graphic/Jpost)
A declining amount of computing is conducted today on desktop computers; instead,
cloud computing – in which operations are carried out on a network of shared,
remote servers – is expected to rise as the demand for computing power
increases. This raises some crucial questions about security: For instance, can
we perform computations on data stored in the “cloud” without letting anyone
else see our information? Research carried out at the Weizmann Institute of
Science in Rehovot and the Microsoft Research Lab in Redmond, California is moving us
closer to the ability to work on data while it is still encrypted, giving an
encrypted result that can later be securely deciphered.
computation on sensitive data stored on shared servers leaves that data exposed
in ways that traditional encryption techniques can’t prevent. The main problem
is that to manipulate the data, it has to be first decoded. “Until a few years
ago, no one knew if the encryption needed for this sort of online security was
even possible,” says Dr. Zvika Brakerski, who recently completed his Ph.D. under
Prof. Shafi Goldwasser of the computer science and applied mathematics
In 2009, however, a doctoral student at Stanford University
named Craig Gentry provided the first demonstration of so-called fully
homomorphic encryption (FHE). His original method was extraordinarily
time-consuming and unwieldy, making it highly impractical. Gentry constructed
his FHE system by using fairly sophisticated math, based on so-called “ideal
lattices,” and this required him to make new and unfamiliar complexity
assumptions to prove security. Gentry’s use of ideal lattices seemed inherent to
FHE; researchers assumed that they were necessary for the server to perform such
basic operations as addition and multiplication on encrypted
Brakerski, together with Dr. Vinod Vaikuntanathan (who was
Goldwasser’s student at MIT), surprised the computer security world earlier this
year with two scientific papers in which they described several new ways of
making fully homomorphic encryption more efficient. For one thing, they managed
to make FHE work with much simpler arithmetic, which speeds up processing time.
And a surprise discovery showed that a mathematical construct used to generate
the encryption keys could be simplified without compromising security. Gentry’s
original ideal lattices are theoretical collections of points that can be added
together – as in an ordinary lattice structure – and also multiplied. But the
new research shows that the lattice does not have to be ideal, which simplifies
the construction immensely.
“The fact that it worked was something like
magic, and it has challenged our assumptions about the function of the ideal
lattices in homomorphic encryption,” says Brakerski.
promises to pave a path to applying FHE in practice. Optimized versions of the
new system could be hundreds – or even thousands – of times faster than Gentry’s
original construction. Indeed, Brakerski and Vaikuntanathan have managed to
advance the theory behind fully homomorphic encryption to the point that
computer engineers can begin to work on applications.
include, for instance, securing medical information for research: A third party
could perform large medical studies on encrypted medical records without having
access to the individuals’ information.LARGE & TINY
The Sami Shamoon
College of Engineering in Beersheba has launched a state-of-the-art nanoscience
education program to provide students with valuable hands-on skills and training
in the developing field. Israel will be the first college in the country to
implement the NanoProfessor Nanoscience Education Program. As Israel’s largest
engineering college, the institution is focused on educating students in
engineering and technology through innovative instruction and R&D. Students
are provided with instrumentation, curriculum and hands-on labs to expand
students’ understanding, skills and real-world experience needed to succeed in
the growing nanotechnology industry.
Nanotechnology is the study of
manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale, usually leading to the
development of materials and devices possessing at least one dimension and sized
from one to 100 nanometers (each is one-billionth of a meter).
the first school in Israel to implement the program ensures that our students
will gain the professional training necessary to become leaders in Israel’s
nanotechnology industry,” said Jehuda Hadad, the college’s president. The
cutting-edge program will help it offer a skilled workforce to the more than 65
Israeli corporations already engaged in nanotech-related businesses, he
“We are excited to bring the NanoProfessor Nanoscience Education
Program to SCE to support the college in continuing Israel’s tradition of
scientific excellence,” said Dean Hart, chief commercial officer at NanoInk.
“Israel has the third largest concentration of nanotech startup companies in the
world,” he said, adding that it will help meet the growing demand within Israel
for nano-savvy workers by providing Shamoon College students with valuable
training using the same equipment and materials used by professionals in the
nanotechnology field today.
The program alternates between classroom
lectures and hands-on lab work and includes a textbook authored by leading
nanotechnology experts, covering the topics of nanotechnology basics,
nanophysics, nanochemistry, nanobiology and environmental, health and safety
perspectives on nanotechnology.