Applying Fully Homomorphic Encryption (Part 1)

This is the first part of a series on applying fully-homomorphic encryption. See part 2 In 2009, Craig Gentry published a paper showing—for the first time—how to construct a fully-homomorphic encryption (FHE) scheme. This was a landmark event in cryptographic research that will eventually have huge practical implications for security and privacy. An often cited (especially by the press) application of FHE is cloud computing. Unfortunately, few (if any) details are usually given as to how exactly FHE is useful for cloud computing.

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Cloud Adversarial Models

Last April I attended a workshop organized by the NSF on cloud security (see here for an overview from the Computing Community Consortium blog). The goal was to get a few people to think about the most interesting and important future research directions in cloud security. The attendees came from a wide range of backgrounds: operating systems, networking, computer architecture, security and cryptography. It was really interesting to see how people from different communities think about and approach the same issues.

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A Key to the Cloud

At this point most people would agree that cloud computing represents a major shift in computing. Consider, for example, that many tech companies are entirely cloud-based. This includes the more established like Netflix and startups like Instagram and Pinterest. Instead of building and maintaining their own computing infrastructure, they can scale on-demand, save money and focus on improving their services. Scientists and engineers whose research was limited by the computing resources they had at their disposal (usually whatever their departments could afford) can now use the cloud to process huge amounts of data and run large-scale simulations cheaply 1.

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