Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Tom Leyden, Lori MacVittie, Elizabeth White, Gilad Parann-Nissany, Aria Blog

Blog Feed Post

Homomorphic Encryption and Cloud Security: The Practicalities

homomorphic encryption data security in the cloud Cloud Security  homomorphic encryption and cloud security Homomorphic Encryption and Cloud Security: The PracticalitiesThis article focuses on homomorphic encryption techniques and what they can mean in practice for cloud computing in the next few years; it is not a mathematical primer.

Suppose you want to hire someone to do a job for you, but you suspect she might leak sensitive details of your business to your enemies. The immediate solution: don’t hire her. But real life is often not so clear cut. Your prospective employee may be very good at a particular job, and you don’t want to lose her skills; while the risk that she turns bad may be low and you need the job done.

This general real life problem has had many solutions over the centuries. People have written contracts with confidentiality clauses, threatened court action, come up with rules for the workplace, tried to instill pride in their workforce, and sometimes they’ve even begged for good behavior.

One particularly nice concept: suppose you could give the job to the talented lady, but seal it in an opaque black sack. She wouldn’t be able to see inside, but would manipulate pieces by putting her hands into the dark sack to get the job done. This way, she would use her talents without discovering your secrets.

The disadvantage is obvious: very few jobs can actually be done blindly, without knowledge and mutual trust. But there are real life examples of the black bag approach. For example, spies work in “cells” designed so that they know as little as possible about other “cells.”

Cloud computing and homomorphic encryption

Cloud computing can suffer from some of the problems we described above. Suppose you have sensitive data information:  health data, financial data, or military secrets. And imagine you need to use a cloud “as a service” solution that takes your data and produces a report. The goal is to compare all the pieces of data and find the “important flukes.” In healthcare, an important fluke could be overpayment for a patient’s treatment. In finance, it could be a credit card fraud event. In the military, it could be data about a cyber-attack hiding between normal pieces of data.

In each of these cases, the “normal” data is sensitive: health, money, “normal” military activity. Still, for valid reason, you cannot do the analysis yourself in your own “secure” space. Somebody else has the expertise to do this particular analysis for you, and is using cloud computing because the job involves massive amounts of computational power.

 

Your find yourself with sensitive data in a cloud, on servers you do not own, and a programs running there which you may not own either.

Cloud encryption is always about hiding secrets.

You take a bunch of readable data and make it unreadable by scrambling the characters and numbers in the data so they don’t make sense. Only someone who has the “encryption key” can reverse the process, decrypt the data, and make it readable again. A typical decryption key could be 64 random characters long, yet by using known encryption techniques (like AES, “Advanced Encryption Standard”), that key can make terabytes completely scrambled and unreadable. Only if you have those 64 characters, the key, can you reverse the process and make the terabytes readable again.

In our case, however, there is a twist.  We want the data to be completely unreadable, but we want the program mentioned before (the one running on servers you do not own and doing a job that requires expertise and computing power the cloud provides) to be able to do its job.

Ideally, we want the program to do its job on data that is always encrypted (and remains encrypted) and successfully come up with a useful result.

Homomorphic encryption makes this possible.  Homomorphic encryption is a set of encryption techniques that will scramble the data based on a key, but allow a program to do some useful work on the unreadable encrypted data. The program cannot understand the data, but it can do something useful on it, without giving it away: an opaque black sack for cloud computing.

Steps to homomorphic encryption: examples of “something useful”

People have started figuring out useful things that can be done to encrypted data by taking a practical approach. Instead of saying that anything can be done in the black sack, people are starting out by saying that something can be done. Here are some examples of “something:”

  • A specific statistical function, perhaps taking the average of two numbers.

Both numbers are encrypted and the result is also encrypted. Only the holder of the encryption key can know the real values of the numbers and the result. However, a machine in the cloud can take the encrypted values and average them, sending an encrypted result back to the “owner.” The owner can then decrypt that result back at home.

  • Searching a person’s genome data to find whether that person has a specific gene that is especially harmful to health while protecting privacy.

The data that describes the genome is encrypted as is the description of the specific gene being searched. Both are uploaded to the cloud servers and the result comes back: the gene is either found or not. But only the person who owns the encryption key knows the genome (and the identity of the human being with that genome); and only they know what they were looking for. Was it a gene that may signal cancer? Or perhaps a gene that may signal high blood pressure? Only they know.

Techniques like these have been described in academic literature. They have not yet been commercialized, but they can really work. You’ll notice that the researchers have been smart.  They focused on a useful and specific problem that can most likely be solved. This is sometimes called “partially homomorphic encryption” and sometimes called “somewhat homomorphic encryption” because the scheme is constructed with one focused goal in mind. It doesn’t try to solve everything.

Fully homomorphic encryption

A more ambitious approach is fully homomorphic encryption (FHE). The Holy Grail is to encrypt any data for any purpose, so that a program running on cloud servers could do almost anything to the data and generate useful results. But only the owner of the data could actually understand the data and understand the result, because only the owner has the key. The running cloud servers would run on encrypted data and produce an encrypted result.

This would be great to have. Recently, Gentry made progress in this field by showing that any function that is made up of additions and multiplications can be computed on homomorphically encrypted data, using what has naturally become called the Gentry scheme.

“Any combination of additions and multiplications” really is quite a lot – in fact almost any math function can be broken down into additions and multiplications, so Gentry’s result is quite strong.

However, there are some practical limitations that have thus far, stopped us from using FHE. One is performance; which can be billions of times slower than the “somewhat” or “partial” approach. Though it is currently being worked on, a big gap persists.

Another limitation to FHE is the kind of problem it can solve. Suppose you wanted to use FHE with a medical expert system. Such systems work more with questions and answers then with addition and multiplication. They try to diagnose a disease based on gathering patient information, applying some logical rules and then asking more questions. This is a logical process and a major part of it is interactive – asking questions and learning. The best of these systems also constantly change their rules, as they learn more about how patients and diseases really work. Is a learning system based on rules and interactive back-and-forth questions and reasoning – easily broken down into addition and multiplication?

So FHE has limitations based on performance and limitations based on type of problem it might solve.

Are there any commercial implementations of homomorphic encryption?

The world’s first commercial implementation is Homomorphic Key Management, a “partially homomorphic” approach. Homomorphic Key Management is focused on the specific problem of encrypting the encryption keys themselves and keeping them safe and secret in the cloud, while still being able to use them for encrypting data. This work was done by Porticor in 2011-2012 and a commercial product entered the market at the end of 2012.

Several academic teams are now working on bringing additional “somewhat homomorphic” approaches to market, though as far as we know, none other has yet been commercialized. We hopefully look toward the coming years to produce commercial results relevant to the study of many fields, such as genomics and specific computations within databases.

In parallel, Academia continues to work hard on making FHE more efficient.

The post Homomorphic Encryption and Cloud Security: The Practicalities appeared first on Porticor Cloud Security.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Gilad Parann-Nissany

Gilad Parann-Nissany, Founder and CEO at Porticor is a pioneer of Cloud Computing. He has built SaaS Clouds for medium and small enterprises at SAP (CTO Small Business); contributing to several SAP products and reaching more than 8 million users. Recently he has created a consumer Cloud at G.ho.st - a cloud operating system that delighted hundreds of thousands of users while providing browser-based and mobile access to data, people and a variety of cloud-based applications. He is now CEO of Porticor, a leader in Virtual Privacy and Cloud Security.

@CloudExpo Stories
The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
SYS-CON Events announced today Isomorphic Software, the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications, will exhibit at SYS-CON's DevOps Summit 2015 New York, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Isomorphic Software is the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications. We develop, market, and support the SmartClient & Smart GWT HTML5/Ajax platform, combining the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software ...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's

"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com...
"Our premise is Docker is not enough. That's not a bad thing - we actually love Docker. At ActiveState all our products are based on open source technology and Docker is an up-and-coming piece of open source technology," explained Bart Copeland, President & CEO of ActiveState Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, p...
The move in recent years to cloud computing services and architectures has added significant pace to the application development and deployment environment. When enterprise IT can spin up large computing instances in just minutes, developers can also design and deploy in small time frames that were unimaginable a few years ago. The consequent move toward lean, agile, and fast development leads to the need for the development and operations sides to work very closely together. Thus, DevOps become...
Verizon Enterprise Solutions is simplifying the cloud-purchasing experience for its clients, with the launch of Verizon Cloud Marketplace, a key foundational component of the company's robust ecosystem of enterprise-class technologies. The online storefront will initially feature pre-built cloud-based services from AppDynamics, Hitachi Data Systems, Juniper Networks, PfSense and Tervela. Available globally to enterprises using Verizon Cloud, Verizon Cloud Marketplace provides a one-stop shop fo...
AppZero has announced that its award-winning application migration software is now fully qualified within the Microsoft Azure Certified program. AppZero has undergone extensive technical evaluation with Microsoft Corp., earning its designation as Microsoft Azure Certified. As a result of AppZero's work with Microsoft, customers are able to easily find, purchase and deploy AppZero from the Azure Marketplace. With just a few clicks, users have an Azure-based solution for moving applications to the...
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada...
SYS-CON Events announced today that AIC, a leading provider of OEM/ODM server and storage solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. AIC is a leading provider of both standard OTS, off-the-shelf, and OEM/ODM server and storage solutions. With expert in-house design capabilities, validation, manufacturing and production, AIC's broad selection of products are highly flexible and are conf...
Leysin American School is an exclusive, private boarding school located in Leysin, Switzerland. Leysin selected an OpenStack-powered, private cloud as a service to manage multiple applications and provide development environments for students across the institution. Seeking to meet rigid data sovereignty and data integrity requirements while offering flexible, on-demand cloud resources to users, Leysin identified OpenStack as the clear choice to round out the school's cloud strategy. Additional...
The cloud is becoming the de-facto way for enterprises to leverage common infrastructure while innovating and one of the biggest obstacles facing public cloud computing is security. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Jeff Aliber, a global marketing executive at Verizon, discussed how the best place for web security is in the cloud. Benefits include: Functions as the first layer of defense Easy operation –CNAME change Implement an integrated solution Best architecture for addressing network-l...
“We help people build clusters, in the classical sense of the cluster. We help people put a full stack on top of every single one of those machines. We do the full bare metal install," explained Greg Bruno, Vice President of Engineering and co-founder of StackIQ, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete...
“DevOps is really about the business. The business is under pressure today, competitively in the marketplace to respond to the expectations of the customer. The business is driving IT and the problem is that IT isn't responding fast enough," explained Mark Levy, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Serena Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Mobile commerce traffic is surpassing desktop, yet less than 20% of sales in the U.S. are mobile commerce sales. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Dan Franklin, Segment Manager, Commerce, at Verizon Digital Media Services, defined mobile devices and discussed how next generation means simplification. It means taking your digital content and turning it into instantly gratifying experiences.