Berto Jongman: WIRED on Crypto Breakthrough — Unhackable Software?

Advanced Cyber/IO
Berto Jongman
Berto Jongman

Cryptography Breakthrough Could Make Software Unhackable

  • By Erica Klarreich, Quanta Magazine

As a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996, Amit Sahai was fascinated by the strange notion of a “zero-knowledge” proof, a type of mathematical protocol for convincing someone that something is true without revealing any details of why it is true. As Sahai mulled over this counterintuitive concept, it led him to consider an even more daring notion: What if it were 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?’

The idea of “obfuscating” a program had been around for decades, but no one had ever developed a rigorous mathematical framework for the concept, let alone created an unassailable obfuscation scheme. Over the years, commercial software companies have engineered various techniques for garbling a computer program so that it will be harder to understand while still performing the same function. But hackers have defeated every attempt. At best, these commercial obfuscators offer a “speed bump,” said Sahai, now a computer science professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “An attacker might need a few days to unlock the secrets hidden in your software, instead of a few minutes.”

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