Cryptography That Could End Software Piracy

#Computers

Mon, Feb 3rd, 2014 21:00 by capnasty NEWS

Wired's Erica Klarreich brings to attention the work of Amit Sahai, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who wanted to know if it was "possible to mask the inner workings not just of a proof, but of a computer program, so that people could use the program without being able to figure out how it worked." Apparently, yes, and while not without its problems right now, it would mean that future software could operate on untrusted computers and never reveal its secrets.

“This is the first serious positive result” when it comes to trying to find a universal obfuscator, said Boaz Barak, of Microsoft Research in Cambridge, Mass. “The cryptography community is very excited.” In the six months since the original paper was posted, more papers have appeared on the ePrint archive with “obfuscation” in the title than in the previous 17 years.

However, the new obfuscation scheme is far from ready for commercial applications. The technique turns short, simple programs into giant, unwieldy albatrosses. And the scheme’s security rests on a new mathematical approach that has not yet been thoroughly vetted by the cryptography community. It has, however, already withstood the first attempts to break it.

Researchers are hailing the new work as a watershed moment for cryptography. For many cryptographers, the conversation has shifted from whether obfuscation is possible to how to achieve it.

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