A breakthrough at Microsoft Research allows sharing of encrypted data

This has significant cost cutting benefits for research studies.

In a development that could make research less expensive in the future, a team at Microsoft Research figured out how to share encrypted data that’s stored in the cloud without compromising security.

Machine learning algorithms may examine our genomes to determine our susceptibility to maladies such as heart disease and cancer. Between now and then, computer scientists need to train the algorithms on genetic data, bundles of which are increasingly stored encrypted and secure in the cloud along with financial records, vacation photos and other bits and bytes of digitized information,” reads an entry in their blog.

The very nature of encryption technology allows only the owners to access it, so the possibility of sharing it is void ab initio. Or so we thought, until Microsoft Research proved it otherwise.

According to the researchers, their methodology includes sharing the results of the multiparty computations without any party getting access to the specifics of it. Thus, although none of the parties can access the data, they can benefit from the result.

“We require that none of the parties involved learns anything beyond what they already know and what is revealed by the function, even when the parties (except the cloud) are active malicious,” said the research brief.

Significantly, the researchers say all encryption related computations are all performed within the cloud with the computations themselves being encapsulated by an encryption. Even the servers don’t know what is being processed.

“Set up this way, the data exchange is secure provided that the cloud itself follows the rules and nothing more,” reads a post.

This could be significant for scientists to preview the data for experiments without even purchasing the experiment. Thus, only after they are fully satisfied with the preview data they will be in a position to decide whether they will purchase the data for their study.

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