Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Jim Hansen, Elizabeth White, PagerDuty Blog, Carmen Gonzalez, David H Deans

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
Both SaaS vendors and SaaS buyers are going “all-in” to hyperscale IaaS platforms such as AWS, which is disrupting the SaaS value proposition. Why should the enterprise SaaS consumer pay for the SaaS service if their data is resident in adjacent AWS S3 buckets? If both SaaS sellers and buyers are using the same cloud tools, automation and pay-per-transaction model offered by IaaS platforms, then why not host the “shrink-wrapped” software in the customers’ cloud? Further, serverless computing, cl...
The Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), which enables organizations to seamlessly run in a hybrid cloud model (public + private cloud), is here to stay. IDC estimates that the software-defined networking market will be valued at $3.7 billion by 2016. Security is a key component and benefit of the SDDC, and offers an opportunity to build security 'from the ground up' and weave it into the environment from day one. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Reuven Harrison, CTO and Co-Founder of Tufin, ...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain.
With the proliferation of both SQL and NoSQL databases, organizations can now target specific fit-for-purpose database tools for their different application needs regarding scalability, ease of use, ACID support, etc. Platform as a Service offerings make this even easier now, enabling developers to roll out their own database infrastructure in minutes with minimal management overhead. However, this same amount of flexibility also comes with the challenges of picking the right tool, on the right ...
“We're a global managed hosting provider. Our core customer set is a U.S.-based customer that is looking to go global,” explained Adam Rogers, Managing Director at ANEXIA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Security, data privacy, reliability and regulatory compliance are critical factors when evaluating whether to move business applications from in-house client hosted environments to a cloud platform. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Vandana Viswanathan, Associate Director at Cognizant, In this session, will provide an orientation to the five stages required to implement a cloud hosted solution validation strategy.
"We host and fully manage cloud data services, whether we store, the data, move the data, or run analytics on the data," stated Kamal Shannak, Senior Development Manager, Cloud Data Services, IBM, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
China Unicom exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which took place at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, in November 2016. China United Network Communications Group Co. Ltd ("China Unicom") was officially established in 2009 on the basis of the merger of former China Netcom and former China Unicom. China Unicom mainly operates a full range of telecommunications services including mobile broadband (GSM, WCDMA, LTE FDD, TD-LTE), fixed-line broadband, ICT, data communica...
Zerto exhibited at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which took place at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, in June 2016. Zerto is committed to keeping enterprise and cloud IT running 24/7 by providing innovative, simple, reliable and scalable business continuity software solutions. Through the Zerto Cloud Continuity Platform™, organizations can seamlessly move and protect virtualized workloads between public, private and hybrid clouds. The company’s flagship product, Zerto Virtual...
As businesses adopt functionalities in cloud computing, it’s imperative that IT operations consistently ensure cloud systems work correctly – all of the time, and to their best capabilities. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Bernd Harzog, CEO and founder of OpsDataStore, will present an industry answer to the common question, “Are you running IT operations as efficiently and as cost effectively as you need to?” He will expound on the industry issues he frequently came up against as an analyst, and...
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, looked at differ...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
IoT offers a value of almost $4 trillion to the manufacturing industry through platforms that can improve margins, optimize operations & drive high performance work teams. By using IoT technologies as a foundation, manufacturing customers are integrating worker safety with manufacturing systems, driving deep collaboration and utilizing analytics to exponentially increased per-unit margins. However, as Benoit Lheureux, the VP for Research at Gartner points out, “IoT project implementers often un...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Technologic Systems Inc., an embedded systems solutions company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Technologic Systems is an embedded systems company with headquarters in Fountain Hills, Arizona. They have been in business for 32 years, helping more than 8,000 OEM customers and building over a hundred COTS products that have never been discontinued. Technologic Systems’ pr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IoT Now has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IoT Now explores the evolving opportunities and challenges facing CSPs, and it passes on some lessons learned from those who have taken the first steps in next-gen IoT services.
SYS-CON Events announced today that WineSOFT will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Based in Seoul and Irvine, WineSOFT is an innovative software house focusing on internet infrastructure solutions. The venture started as a bootstrap start-up in 2010 by focusing on making the internet faster and more powerful. WineSOFT’s knowledge is based on the expertise of TCP/IP, VPN, SSL, peer-to-peer, mob...
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and containers together help companies achieve their business goals faster and more effectively. In his session at DevOps Summit, Ruslan Synytsky, CEO and Co-founder of Jelastic, reviewed the current landscape of Dev...
SYS-CON Events announced today that delaPlex will exhibit at SYS-CON's @CloudExpo, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. delaPlex pioneered Software Development as a Service (SDaaS), which provides scalable resources to build, test, and deploy software. It’s a fast and more reliable way to develop a new product or expand your in-house team.
With billions of sensors deployed worldwide, the amount of machine-generated data will soon exceed what our networks can handle. But consumers and businesses will expect seamless experiences and real-time responsiveness. What does this mean for IoT devices and the infrastructure that supports them? More of the data will need to be handled at - or closer to - the devices themselves.