Real World Cryptography

Claire Vishik is Trust & Security Technology & Policy Director at Intel.

Cryptography and secure computation permeate the fabric of today’s technologies and everyday life. These areas of research and practice have experienced explosive global development. Worldwide adoption of the results of research in cryptography shortened the development cycle of the new technologies in this area, and left a gap between highly mathematical work in theoretical cryptography and the approaches taken to its implementation and deployment. Because the applications of commercial encryption are so ubiquitous and cover so many use cases, other aspects associated with the use of cryptography – regulations, standardization approaches, user adoption, and economic considerations – also attracted attention of researchers and technologists.
The interest in the subject led to the need for mechanisms to support discussion and exchange of opinion related to “real world cryptography,” and in the last several years, conferences and workshops emerged or were adapted to address these aspects. On the technology side, I would like to mention the Real World Cryptography Workshop, inaugurated in 2012 that focuses on the implementation issues for encryption. Its goal is to bring together cryptography researchers and implementers of real world systems. In the past, NEC workshop on real life cryptographic protocols brought these two constituencies – researchers and implementers — together to discuss theory and implementation issues in cryptographic protocol development and standardization. Some established conferences extended their interest to more practical issues. Long standing events on financial cryptography and public key cryptography, for example, endeavored to continue to include the community of practitioners in the theoretical discussions.
With regard to societal issues associated with encryption, models of collaboration for technologists, researchers, and practitioners were slower to emerge, with fewer dedicated events and discussion fora. In economics of security, the long standing  Workshop on Economics of Information, WEIS, includes some discussion of the economics of cryptography, and encryption has been highlighted in other meetings. But  greater collaboration is required to address the complex issues associated with the development and use of commercial encryption.
Since 2011, Intel has conducted a series of workshops on the “International View of the State-of-the-Art of Cryptography and Security and their Use in Practice.“ The international group of theoretical cryptographers, implementers, technologists, legal and policy experts, and other practitioners, met in 2011, 2012, in spring and winter of 2013, and twice in 2014 to discuss a range of issues in an informal discussion forum. Among the topics raised at the workshop, we can mention advances in cryptography that have potential implications for practice, standardization issues, problems connected with privacy and surveillance, approaches to key management and ownership, economics, regional policies, and many other aspects of cryptography  and its applications of interest to theorists and practitioners worldwide. These discussions will continue at the workshops in 2015.

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