• UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Gauchos are live on @ESPN3 ! WATCH >>> https://t.co/io6ZzYs9Hg https://t.co/BEO8wTxv62
    4 hours 16 min ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    Congrats to Leah Foltz for winning the #UCSB Grad Slam! Now she moves onto the UC-wide competition in SF on May 4th! https://t.co/kVqCtOTWb7
    11 hours 9 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Former @UCSB_Baseball LHP Dom Mazza speaks with his hometown paper after throwing a perfecto this week! https://t.co/GPc3B3qL9g
    11 hours 29 min ago
  • ArtsandLectures twitter avatar
    Watch pianist #MurrayPerahia's breathtaking and imaginative performance, tonight at 7PM at UCSB Campbell Hall!… https://t.co/M83EeA6Y53
    14 hours 15 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Softball: Hawai'i Tops UCSB 5-1 in Gauchos' Final Road Series Opener https://t.co/ejf0MWM1g0
    21 hours 35 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Gauchos Sweep Past UCI 4-0 https://t.co/WFwbxDV8eA
    1 day 12 min ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    We're happy to see you back, alumni! Don't miss the great events we have this weekend. #AllGauchoReunion… https://t.co/Sbz4iirr7i
    1 day 3 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Women's Tennis: Cal Poly 0, UC Santa Barb. 4 (Final) No.2 UCSB blanks No.7 Cal Poly in Big West Quarterfinal 4-0 https://t.co/m4kdACQFo5
    1 day 3 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    .@UCSB_Baseball vs. UC Riverside on @ESPN3 is live now! Watch here >>> https://t.co/QJMvNLa0mQ
    1 day 4 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    WWP: Defending Big West Champs Defeated by No. 12 LBSU in Another Overtime Match https://t.co/XIO3RJdo9p
    1 day 4 hours ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Top-Seeded UCSB Set to Host Big West Golf Championship at Sandpiper GC https://t.co/SyXPKB2Ur5
    1 day 6 hours ago
  • UCSBLibrary twitter avatar
    RT @ForestSways: CEMA poster preservation for primary source research. #Chicanohertiage @Marikhasmanyan @UCSBLibrary #sca17 https://t.co/M…
    1 day 8 hours ago
  • UCSBLibrary twitter avatar
    @AmldavisAnn We're glad you're interested in using, please contact (805) 893-3062 or @library.ucsb.edu">special@library.ucsb.edu for m… https://t.co/fwAVOMoWyB
    1 day 8 hours ago
  • UCSB_GradPost twitter avatar
    CPT F-1 Visa workshop for international students on May 11 https://t.co/l6xZEndRVl #UCSB #ucsbgradpost
    1 day 8 hours ago
  • UCSB_GradPost twitter avatar
    Two open postdoc positions on Verification of Quantum Cryptography https://t.co/ZRA2iro7Ym #UCSB #ucsbgradpost
    1 day 8 hours ago

The Best of Both Worlds

UC Santa Barbara cryptologists receive $500,000 from the NSF to study encryption algorithms that are both efficient and provably secure
Monday, August 4, 2014 - 12:15
Santa Barbara, CA

Stefano Tessaro.jpg

photo of Stefano Tessaro

Stefano Tessaro

Photo Credit: 

Sonia Fernandez

In the era of Internet and social media, where much of our communication happens online, it’s easy to take our privacy for granted and to trust that the messages we send and transactions we perform are kept unreadable to prying eyes.

But according to UC Santa Barbara cryptologist Stefano Tessaro, even the most widely used standardized cryptographic algorithm, the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), could be only a break-in away from being catastrophically compromised.

“Security is not proven,” he said. “Researchers have tried to break AES with known attacks and failed so far, and thus assume that no attack will be found.

In addition, standardization is a double-edged sword. An algorithm that gets recognized by an authority like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be put into wide use, even embedded into chips that are built into computers.

“It’s great for efficiency and reliability,” he said, “but if there’s a successful attack, the vast majority of the world’s electronic communications will suddenly be vulnerable to decryption and hacking,” Tessaro explained.

There are, in principle, cryptographic algorithms that can be proved to be secure, said Tessaro, and their security can be demonstrated mathematically. However, the cost of security is speed, and the most protective algorithm is usually not the fastest. Since the algorithms have to run a multitude of times per second to encrypt even the smallest bit of electronic communication, the focus has been on those that are designed with speed in mind.

Funded by a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace program, Tessaro and his team hope to stay ahead of the curve by studying what it would take to close the gap between the algorithms researchers know to be secure and the level of service (i.e. speed) Internet users have come to expect.

“The work involves laying down a solid theoretical framework for the development of basic encryption algorithms that are both efficient and provably secure,” said Tessaro. The researchers will examine some of the most fundamental issues of cryptography, such as privacy and integrity of information. They will also study block ciphers, widely used algorithms for encrypting large amounts of information.

“These are very simple encryption algorithms,” Tessaro said. “They are fast but are not as strong as the fully secure encryption algorithms we would want them to be.” The project involves determining ways to build stronger block ciphers, based on guidelines to be developed by Tessaro and his group.

Though mostly theoretical, the outcome should have very real impacts on the world of electronic communications. The results of the study would be disseminated to the institutions, communities and other entities involved in electronic cryptography in the hopes that the next wave of standardizations will take the new framework into account. NIST is expected to hold competitions to replace encryption standards in the forseeable future, according to Tessaro. While the project is concerned mainly with developing the new, more secure encryption framework from which multiple cryptographic algorithms may be developed, one potential outcome is also that the group might develop its own algorithm as a candidate for standardization.

“The main point related to the grant is simply that there is a gap between cryptography satisfying the real world efficiency requirements — without provable security — and the algorithms that academics develop — with provable security — which are considered unpractical by system designers,” he said.

Contact Info: 

Sonia Fernandez
(805) 637-3726
sonia.fernandez@ucsb.edu

 

Topics: