UA Little Rock Student Wins Award to Improve Online Cloud Encryption and Security

As we continually conduct business online in a cloud-based environment for sensitive data such as tax returns, medical records, and databases, the need for advanced techniques to secure personal data becomes imperative. Jacob Bonfanti, a sophomore majoring in Computer Science at UA Little Rock, has won $2,750 from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education’s Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) to conduct a project to provide a homomorphic encryption scheme for computing on encrypted data in cloud-based computing services. This is in addition to his mentor’s previously awarded SURF project in 2016.

Cloud-based computing environments allow users to store data files on a server at an alternate location. This data can be retrieved on any internet-connected device in any location. While users have to retrieve the data using a username and password to their cloud-based account, it is still not as secure as local files stored on a physical hard drive that can be encrypted for further protection. Encryption allows a file to be turned into secret code that can only be read by someone who knows the unique key combination. This security measure is especially important when transmitting data from one device to another, as someone cannot hack into sensitive information as it is being sent.

Because fully homomorphic data encryption is not fully developed in cloud computing services, Bonfanti, with his mentor Dr. Chia-Chu Chiang from the UA Little Rock Department of Computer Science, wants to provide an encryption scheme that provides more security for this type of storage. This type of encryption, known as “fully homomorphic” encryption, was first developed in 2009. However, at the time it was considered too impractical for widespread applications. Bonfanti’s goal is to take this encryption scheme and apply it universally to a wide range of practical applications. This unique encryption scheme will allow an unlimited number of additions and multiplications of numbers for the unique key combination used in an encrypted file, which means tighter security measures for your personal data. With his research, we can feel more secure about storing important and sensitive information in cloud-based computing environments.

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