Cryptography: The holy grail of computer science

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Cryptography: The holy grail of computer science
Cryptography: The holy grail of computer science
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The holy grail of computer science

Can a computer program be obscured in such a way that its functionality cannot be predicted? Research teams in mathematics and computer science have taken on this demanding task - and found a method that no one believed in anymore.

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Software manufacturers have always been interested in developing programs that a computer can run, but whose exact function is not immediately apparent. There are various reasons for this: On the one hand, it prevents the competition from copying the software and incorporating it into their own product. On the other hand, criminals cannot manipulate them and thus circumvent copy protection, for example.

Therefore, programmers have developed numerous methods to obfuscate algorithms without changing their functionality. The process is known as obfuscation. The technology also proves to be extremely useful in cryptography, as it allows secrets to be hidden in public software. This can be used to elegantly solve numerous cryptographic problems.

A secure method that works reliably for all types of programs was out of reach for a long time. Many even doubted that such a thing even existed. But that has now changed: In a research paper published in 2020, computer scientists Aayush Jain and Amit Sahai from the University of California in Los Angeles, together with their colleague Huijia Lin from the University of Washington, succeeded in finding a universal obfuscation that can be proven one thing is for sureā€¦

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