One of the trickiest issues that’s dogging cloud computing is security. For businesses, this is a huge deal because they are being asked to entrust another entity with the confidentiality of their data, like customer records replete with private information. Encryption solves this, obviously, but it adds another barrier to modern business processes that require data analysis. Cloud providers, too, need some visibility for management and analysis on behalf of their clients.
This is where breakthrough, called “privacy homomorphism” or “fully homomorphic encryption” comes in. While earning his PhD at at Stanford and pulling double duty as a summer student at IBM Research, Craig Gentry cooked up the “ideal lattice,” a mathematical object that loosens the bonds of encrypted data for the above purposes but doesn’t expose the underlying encrypted data.
With the breakthrough, computer vendors storing the confidential, electronic data of others will be able to fully analyze data on their clients’ behalf without expensive interaction with the client, and without seeing any of the private data. With Gentry’s technique, the analysis of encrypted information can yield the same detailed results as if the original data was fully visible to all.
Using the solution could help strengthen the business model of “cloud computing,” where a computer vendor is entrusted to host the confidential data of others in a ubiquitous Internet presence. It might better enable a cloud computing vendor to perform computations on clients’ data at their request, such as analyzing sales patterns, without exposing the original data.
Soon (hopefully) corporations and individuals will enjoy secure, encrypted cloud computing without compromising on functionality. The roadblocks to widespread cloud computing seem to be falling away, don’t they?