Intel, Microsoft to tackle ‘final frontier’ in data privacy

Chip-maker Intel has collaborated with Microsoft on Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) programme in the US, to tackle the final frontier in data privacy which is computing on fully encrypted data without access to decryption keys.

The aim is to develop an accelerator for fully homomorphic encryption (FHE), Intel said in a statement late on Monday.

“Fully homomorphic encryption remains the holy grail in the quest to keep data secure while in use. Despite strong advances in trusted execution environments and other confidential computing technologies to protect data while at rest and in transit, data is unencrypted during computation, opening the possibility of potential attacks at this stage,” explained Rosario Cammarota, principal engineer, Intel Labs, and principal investigator, DARPA DPRIVE programme.

Microsoft is the key cloud ecosystem and homomorphic encryption partner leading the commercial adoption of the technology once developed by testing it in its cloud offerings, including Microsoft Azure and the Microsoft JEDI cloud, with the US government.

Fully homomorphic encryption enables users to compute on always-encrypted data, or cryptograms. The data never needs to be decrypted, reducing the potential for cyberthreats.

“We are pleased to bring our expertise in cloud computing and homomorphic encryption to the DARPA DPRIVE programme, collaborating with Intel to advance this transformative technology when ready into commercial usages that will help our customers,” said Dr William Chappell, CTO, Azure Global, and vice president, Mission Systems, Microsoft.

The multi-year DARPA DPRIVE programme will span several phases starting with the design, development and verification of foundational IP blocks that will be integrated into a system-on-chip and a full software stack.

Intel said it will also continue to invest in ongoing academic research in the field.