A joint project sponsored by NTT Research with cryptographers from UCLA and University of Washington has solved a 20-year-old problem involving indistinguishability obfuscation — the notion of making a computer program “unintelligible” while preserving its functionality. The research is published on the Electronic Colloquium on Computational Complexity, the IACR ePrint server and Arxiv.

The paper is co-authored by Aayush Jain, a graduate student researcher in the Center for Encrypted Functionalities (CEF) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and research intern at the NTT Research Cryptography and Information Security (CIS) Lab; Huijia (Rachel) Lin, associate professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington; and Amit Sahai, Symantec Chair Professor of Computer Science at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering and director of the CEF.

“Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg wrote that in scientific research, if one has the choice between working in an area where ‘the principles are well known,’ or in an area that ‘seems like a mess,’ his advice was ‘to go for the messes — that’s where the action is.’ In my opinion, this advice is particularly pertinent to theoretical research, but perhaps seldom followed by theoreticians. For years, the mathematical foundations of indistinguishability obfuscation were quite frankly a mess. But this line of work shows that with years of perseverance, diligence and humility, such messes eventually can be tamed,” Sahai said.

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