IBM Releases Fully Homomorphic Encryption Toolkit
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Thursday, 18 June 2020

IBM has released a fully homomorphic encryption toolkit for MacOS and iOS, with plans to add versions for Linux and Android. 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 (FHE) avoids this problem by providing a way to work with the encrypted data.


The way HFE works is that unencrypted data is converted into ciphertext which is unreadable by humans until the proper cipher algorithm is used to decrypt it. The ciphertext is stored in a way that means computations can be performed on it, even though the data is not understandable by human observers. The results are also created in ciphertext format. To be fully homomorphic the code has to be such that a third party can add and multiply numbers that it contains without needing to decrypt it. Since the data and the results can only be decrypted by the data owner,  it opens the option for highly regulated industries such as banking to outsource storage and computation to less secure environments such as the cloud while still keeping their data secure. 

When used with other encryption techniques, FHE can be used to selectively restrict decryption capabilities, so people can see only the portions of a file that they are entitled to, and are necessary for them to do their work.

IBM Research helped pioneer FHE in 2009 with the creation of HeLib, which is now widely used as an encryption library. IBM has continued work on the technology, particularly in its performance, and the researchers say they have achieved over a 100x improvement in speed meaning FHE can be used in everyday applications.

The new toolkits are based on HeLib, and each toolkit includes sample programs and IDE integration making it easier to write FHE based code. The FHE toolkits for MacOS, iOS are now available in GitHub, with Linux and Android expected in a few weeks.

Flavio Bergamaschi, Senior Research Scientist and leader of the group developing IBM's Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE) technology, said of the new toolkits:

"I should point out that these are not perfect or final. We wanted to quickly put them out to get the technology into the hands of early adopters who want to make these concepts less abstract and more concrete as we look to build up a community of users and use cases."

There's a developer Q&A that gives more details of the new toolkits.


More Information

FHE Toolkit for MacOS on GitHub

FHE Toolkit for iOS on GitHub

IBM Research FHE Homepage

FHE Toolkit Q&A



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