Bristol wins £1m for computing on encrypted data

May 12, 2011 by
Filed under: News 

Bristol University’s Cryptography Group has received nearly £1 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council UK (EPSRC) with the aim of transforming security applications in the future.

The grant will enable the research group, led by Nigel Smart, Professor of Cryptology in the Department of Computer Science, to continue their work on forms of technology that enables computing on encrypted data, such as fully homomorphic encryption and multi-party computation. The project aims to take these theoretical approaches and examine more closely the barriers to true practicality and will have wide- ranging impact on areas as diverse as database access, electronic auctions and electronic voting.

The new grant is in addition to another grant from the US agency, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for research on fully homomorphic encryption.

“It is really important that the UK invests in research in this area, as the potential benefits if we can make this technology practical could be immense,” said Professor Nigel Smart. “However, the timeline to a useable practical realisation could be many years. This investment by EPSRC shows a deep understanding of the long-term nature of the contribution of university research to the competitiveness of UK plc.”

In 2009 Craig Gentry from IBM came up with the first scheme which simultaneously allows you to “add” and “multiply” ciphertexts. Gentry’s scheme, although an amazing theoretical breakthrough is not practical, and last year the group at Bristol showed how one could instantiate Craig Gentry’s breakthrough 2009 scheme by simplifying the key generation and encryption procedures to produce a partially working system.


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