SEAL up your data just like Microsoft: Redmond open-sources 'simple' homomorphic encryption blueprints

How to work on encrypted data without having to decrypt it first


Microsoft wants to accelerate the standardisation of homomorphic encryption, so it's open sourced its “Simple Encrypted Arithmetic Library” under an MIT licence.

Homomorphic encryption is designed to better protect internet-facing databases, by allowing software to operate on data within these information stores without decrypting it as an intermediary step. In other words, you can perform computations, such as as addition or multiplication, without having to decrypt the data and re-encrypt it. The results of these operations remain encrypted, and can be stored back in the database.

That means you can increment counts of stuff, for example, without having to involve decryption keys, which reduces risk. If someone gets hold of the database, they can't decrypt it.

There's a performance hit involved, but privacy and security are greatly improved. As Microsoft explained on Monday this week, while data can be stored encrypted in the cloud, using it demands a trade-off.

“Either we store our data encrypted in the cloud and download it to perform any useful operations, which can be logistically inconvenient, or we provide the decryption key to service providers, risking our privacy,” it said.

UIltron

Microsoft researchers smash homomorphic encryption speed barrier

READ MORE

Simple Encrypted Arithmetic Library (SEAL) came out of Redmond's Cryptography Research group, has no external dependencies, and was written in standard C++ for ease of compilation, and works on Windows, Linux, and OS X.

A year after it started work on SEAL, Microsoft unveiled it in 2015, and in 2016 used SEAL as the basis of artificial intelligence CryptoNets that could make 51,000 predictions per hour with 99 per cent accuracy, without decrypting the data they were working on.

Performance has always been the Achilles' heel of homomorphic encryption. When IBM's Craig Gentry produced the first working system, it ran roughly 100 trillion times slower than operations on plaintext. Big Blue improved its performance over time, and offered its own open source library in 2013.

On November 21 this year, a 23-member group (including Microsoft) offered the latest version of its homomorphic encryption standard, covering things like encryption schemes and APIs.

The SEAL code is on GitHub under the MIT license. ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Japan picks AWS and Google for first gov cloud push

    Local players passed over for Digital Agency’s first project

    Japan's Digital Agency has picked Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud for its first big reform push.

    The Agency started operations in September 2021, years after efforts like the UK's Government Digital Service (GDS) or Australia's Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). The body was a signature reform initiated by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who spent his year-long stint in the top job trying to curb Japan's reliance on paper documents, manual processes, and faxes. Japan's many government agencies also operated their websites independently of each other, most with their own design and interface.

    The new Agency therefore has a remit to "cut across all ministries" and "provide services that are driven not toward ministries, agency, laws, or systems, but toward users and to improve user-experience".

    Continue reading
  • Singaporean minister touts internet 'kill switch' that finds kids reading net nasties and cuts 'em off ASAP

    Fancies a real-time crowdsourced content rating scheme too

    A Minister in the Singapore government has suggested the creation of an internet kill switch that would prevent minors from reading questionable material online – perhaps using ratings of content created in real time by crowdsourced contributors.

    "The post-COVID world will bring new challenges globally, including to us in the security arena," said Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at a Tuesday ceremony to award the city-state's 2021 Defense Technology Prize.

    "For operations, the SAF (Singapore Armed Force) has to expand its capabilities in the digital domain. Whether for administrative or operational purposes, I think that we will need to leverage technology to the maximum," he declared.

    Continue reading
  • China Telecom booted out of USA as Feds worry it could disrupt or spy on local networks

    FCC urges more action against Huawei and DJI, too

    The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has terminated China Telecom's authority to provide communications services in the USA.

    In its announcement of the termination, the government agency explained the decision is necessary because the national security environment has changed in the years since 2002. That was when China Telecom was first allowed to operate in the USA.

    The FCC now believes – partly based on classified advice from national security agencies – that China Telecom can "access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications, which in turn allow them to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the United States." And because China Telecom is state-controlled, China's government can compel the carrier to act as it sees fit, without judicial review or oversight.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021