Researchers revamp MPC to keep spies out of your data centre

Now that it has been revealed that the NSA has the keys to your data centre, analysts are working out new methods to shut them out.

One of the plans is to develop corporate datacentres that encrypt data beyond the ability of the NSA to crack it.

The idea is to use a new encryption technique that allows data to be stored, transported and even used by applications without giving away any secrets.

The concept was presented by security researchers from Denmark and the UK to the European Symposium on Research in Computer Security.

It looks at a long-discussed encryption concept called Multi-Party Computation (MPC).

MPC allows two parties who have to collaborate on an analysis or computation to do so without revealing their own data to the other party.

The idea has been kicking around since 1982. Ways to accomplish it with more than two parties, or with standardised protocols and procedures was considered impractical.

The Danish/British team have revamped an MPC protocol nicknamed SPDZ, which uses secret, securely generated keys to distribute a second set of keys that can be used for MPC encryptions.

This allows parties on one end of a transaction to verify that they know a piece of information such as a password by offering a different piece of information that could be known only to the other party.

The technique could allow secure password-enabled login without requiring users to type in a password or send it across the internet.

SPDZ was rejected too slow and cumbersome to be practical, but the revamped version seems to work a lot better.

Nigel Smart, professor of cryptology at the University of Bristol streamlined SPDZ by reducing the number of times global MAC keys had to be calculated in order to create pairs of public and private keys for other uses.

By cutting down on repetitive tasks, the whole process becomes much faster. It also keeps global MAC keys secret and makes the faster process more secure.

According to Slashdot the University of Bristol is already working out ways to commercialise the technique.