DARPA Launches Plans For Fast FHE
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Tuesday, 16 March 2021

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced the teams that will take part in its Data Protection in Virtual Environments (DPRIVE) program. The program aims to develop an accelerator for fully homomorphic encryption (FHE).

FHE provides a way to carry out computations on encrypted data without it needing to be decrypted. For normal encryption techniques, data can be encrypted at rest and in transit, but if you want to use it, it has to be decrypted, at which point it is exposed and vulnerable to attack.  Fully Homomorphic Encryption avoids this problem by providing a way to work with the encrypted data.

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The DPRIVE program's aim is to develop a hardware accelerator for FHE computations that will:

"dramatically reduce the compute runtime overhead compared to software-based FHE approaches".

To achieve this, the plan is to design and implement a hardware accelerator for FHE computations, so making the technology more accessible for sensitive defense applications as well as commercial use.

dprive

DARPA has announced that four teams of researchers will work towards this goal. The teams will be led by Duality Technologies, Galois, SRI International, and Intel Federal. Each team will develop an FHE accelerator hardware and software stack with the aim of carrying out FHE calculations at a speed comparable to similar unencrypted data operations. Part of the research is to explore various approaches with different native word sizes. This directly relates to the signal-to-noise ratio of how encrypted data is stored and processed, as well as the error generated each time an FHE calculation is processed. The selected DPRIVE research teams will explore various approaches covering a diversity of word sizes – from 64 bits to thousands of bits – to solve the challenge.

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 U.S. government.

Rosario Cammarota, principal engineer, Intel Labs, and principal investigator, DARPA DPRIVE program, said:

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. This frequently inhibits our ability to fully share and extract the maximum value out of data."

Under the DARPA DPRIVE program, Intel plans to design an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) accelerator to reduce the performance overhead currently associated with fully homomorphic encryption. When fully realized, the accelerator could deliver a massive improvement in executing FHE workloads over existing CPU-driven systems, potentially reducing cryptograms’ processing time by five orders of magnitude.

The DARPA DPRIVE program will take several years, and have a number of 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.

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More Information

DARPA website

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 16 March 2021 )