Securing the Cloud

Meet Vinod Vaikuntanathan, who is developing fully homomorphic encryption.

Video and photo by Lillie Paquette; Written by Carolyn Blais

In today’s cyber world, sharing selfies is one thing but keeping personal information private is another. Luckily, Vinod Vaikuntanathan, the Steven and Renee Finn Career Development Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, is working to make data stored on the cloud, more secure.

When Vaikuntanathan was young he loved chemistry but he admits that he destroyed “half of the laboratory when [he] was doing experiments.” Deciding to pursue a field where he could use his head more than his hands, Vaikuntanathan settled on coding. “I wanted to do something that is abstract, mathematical, but also has relevance to a practice, and cryptography was a very natural choice,” he says.

Vaikuntanathan knows that privacy is of utmost concern when storing important data on the cloud. Encrypting information can keep personal records safe, he explains, however “you also don’t want your encryption to act as a black box.” For the past five years Vaikuntanathan has dedicated his work to figuring out how to construct and design systems that can manipulate encrypted data. This type of encryption system is called “homomorphic encryption” and Vaikuntanathan believes it will help keep information secure, despite technological advances. To learn more about this type of research, visit https://toc.csail.mit.edu.

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