Quanta Magazine Profiles UCLA Computer Scientists for Achieving “Crown Jewel” of Cryptography

Aayush Jain and Amit Sahai

Aayushi Jain photo on left by Eleena Mohanty
UCLA Samueli computer science graduate student Aayush Jain (L) and his adviser, Professor Amit Sahai.

Nov 12, 2020

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

While many computer scientists had long given up on the possibility of establishing indistinguishability obfuscation (iO), a master tool for encryption, UCLA Samueli computer science graduate student Aayush Jain and his adviser, Professor Amit Sahai, have not. Sahai, in particular, has spent more than 20 years trying to solve this elusive problem.

Working with Huijia Lin, a professor at the University of Washington, Jain and Sahai created an iO protocol circumventing the complications that prevented past attempts from making iO a reality. Quanta Magazine published this week an article titled “Computer Scientists Achieve ‘Crown Jewel’ of Cryptography,” which featured the group’s recently published research that solved the decades-long mystery.

If successfully launched, iO could render a computer program unintelligible while preserving its functionality. Obfuscating a computer program allows for an array of useful applications, such as “deniable” encryption, which allows a user to fend off potential attacks, and “functional” encryption, which enables a user to specify the level of data access. While the protocol is not yet ready to be deployed, it could eventually provide pathways for a myriad of cryptographic tools that were not previously available.

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