IBM secures cloud computing with encryption breakthrough

IBM has claimed that one of their researchers has solved a problem that has challenged public-key encryption experts for decades how to analyse encrypted data without sacrificing confidentiality.

The company said that the breakthrough could strengthen cloud computing security, as it would enable a cloud computing vendor to "perform computations" on business data such as looking for sales patterns without exposing the original private data.

IBM researcher Craig Gentry formulated the solution, which is called "privacy homomorphism" or "fully homomorphic encryption". He was said to have used a mathematical object called an "ideal lattice" to do it.

IBM said the system could be used to identify spam in encrypted email, protect electronic medical records, and let users look at information from search engines without feeling their privacy was threatened.

"Fully homomorphic encryption is a bit like enabling a layperson to perform flawless neurosurgery while blindfolded, without later remembering the episode," claimed Charles Lickel, vice president of IBM Software Research in a statement.

"We believe this breakthrough will enable businesses to make more informed decisions, based on studied analysis, without compromising privacy," he added.

Click here to read how security is holding back cloud computing.