Homomorphic Encryption is the Future of Encryption
This is concept used for centuries in one form or the other but failed to get much recognition until the last decade. The Greeks and Germans used this very technique to send secret messages and information by substituting letters such as an A for D, or B for E, and so on. These were only decipherable with a secret key to secure valuable information.
Recently, a movie named “The Imitation Game” highlighted one such code decryption machine “Enigma” used by the British in the World War II to decode crack Nazi codes regarding information on their defense and attack strategy. Alan Tuning and the other cryptologists, as shown in the movie, were one of the major reasons for the Americans being able to win the War. So, if that really was the reason for the end of World War II, imagine how this technology of decoding codes can transform the world we live in!
Lets’ take a look at the basics of encryption first. Data that can be read and understood easily is known as plaintext or cleartext. We all know that. But the method used to disguise the plaintext in such a way that it completely hides the actual meaning of it, is the art of Encryption. This results in the plaintext appearing as gibberish called ciphertext. So what role does this art of encryption has in store for us in the near future? Let’s take a look.
Modern encryption today uses keys to secure data on your mobile devices and computers to keep communications private and safe. Turning meaningful information in gibberish prevents it from being used for malicious purposes. In order to do so, you need the right key.
To understand the future, you need to hear a story.
The story began with Alice the jewelry shop owner
In 2010, a graduate student named Craig Gentry thought of a new way to protect data. Calling it fully homomorphic, he suggested to process data in such a way that is becomes impossible to decrypt. To explain his concept, he created two hypothetical beings named Alice and Bob. Alice owns a jewelry shop but doesn’t trust her employees/workers with such expensive gems so she gets an impenetrable box with a key only she had.
Whenever Alice wanted a new piece of jewelry made, she locked the material inside the box and passed it onto her workers. Using specially made gloves, the workers worked on the gems without even touching the actual product inside the box. This way, the workers processed the raw material into jewelry, and once it was completed, Alice took it out using her special key to access the finished goods.
This is exactly how fully homomorphic encryption works. With all data and computation moving to the cloud, fully homomorphic encryption will allow data to be processed without having to access it directly.
Cryptographers like Gentry are still finding means to turn this idea into practical reality. The goal of all this research is to ensure the security of important information one day wherever it might be.