Functional Encryption: Beyond Public Key Cryptography

Brent Waters, University of Texas at Austin

Data privacy is a ubiquitous concern. It is an issue that is confronted by nearly every organization, from health care providers and the payment card industry to web commerce sites. Protecting data storage servers by securing the network perimeter is becoming increasingly difficult given the number of attack vectors available and trends toward distributed data storage. Consequently, several enterprises are looking to realize access control by encryption. Encrypting data reduces the problem of data privacy from protecting all stored data to protecting small secret keys. While current encryption systems provide a powerful security tool, there exist fundamental limitations for realistic sharing of private data. In particular, there is an inherent gap between how we want to share data and our ability to express access policies in current encryption systems.

In this talk I will present a new concept called “functional encryption” that puts forth a new vision for how encryption systems should work. In functional encryption, a data provider directly expresses his data sharing policy during the encryption procedure itself. Likewise, a recipient will be able to decrypt and access data if and only if she possesses matching secret key credentials. By allowing a provider to encrypt directly, and eliminating the need to locate individual recipients, we can build much simpler systems. I will describe the challenges in realizing functional encryption systems as well as the techniques I have developed to overcome them. In addition, I will discuss work in bringing these methods to practice.

Speaker Biography

Brent Waters is an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Waters’ research interests are in the areas of computer security and applied cryptography. His work has focused on Identity-Based Cryptography, security of broadcast systems, and authentication of remote systems. He has award and invited papers. He both publishes and has served on the program commitees of the top technical security venues (CRYPTO, Eurocrypt, the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS), and the IEEE Conference on Security and Privacy). Dr. Waters has been an invited speaker in industry and at research Universities, including MIT, CMU, and Stanford. He was the keynote speaker on functional encryption at the 2008 NIST workshop on Identity-Based Encryption. Dr. Waters is a National Academy of Sciences Kavli Fellow and recipient of the NSF CAREER award and a Sloan Research Fellowship.