Several big companies protect their most valuable secrets using cryptographic keys. However, many of these approaches are vulnerable to cyber-attack. Professor Nigel Smart has taken an obscure academic theory and transformed this into a significant security breakthrough.
To learn more, Digital Journal spoke with Professor Smartin an interview.
Digital Journal: What are the main cyber risks facing business’ today?
Professor Nigel Smart: There are a multitude of risks arising from data exfiltration; these attacks might result in loss of customer data (and hence provide major threats to your customers), loss of intellectual property, to enable a business’ assets to be used in further attacks, or to shut down your business entirely (in the case of ransomware). In all cases such attacks can affect both the bottom line, and also intangible assets such as reputation.
DJ: Where do cyber attacks originate from?
Smart: Attackers are increasingly sophisticated. They are no longer the lone teenager in a bedroom. They are likely to be more from organized crime syndicates or even nation state actors.
DJ: Can cryptography deliver greater security?
Smart: Cryptography is the bedrock on which cyber security is based. Cryptography provides the underlying technology to provide higher level security services such as identification of users, authenticating permissions, or simply securing data.
DJ: How did you develop your cryptographic keys?
Smart: Unbound’s cryptographic algorithms are based on decades of research in the academic community into a technology called “Multi-Party Computation.” Most cryptography is about either protecting data in transit, i.e. whilst it is being transmitted from position A to position B, or it is used to protect data in storage, e.g. on an encrypted hard drive. What is unique about Unbound’s technology is that it protects data whilst one is actually computing on it. This provides a paradigm shift in how one can imagine new cyber security solutions.
DJ: How have you demonstrated the effectiveness of the keys?
Smart: The security of Unbound’s algorithms are guaranteed by mathematical proofs. All of our solutions come backed up with rigorous proofs that the protocols meet specific high security goals. In addition, our protocols are rigorously tested in production environments to ensure they meet the stringent performance metrics one requires in real life.
DJ: Which companies have you worked with so far?
Smart: Our solution is already deployed in a number of Fortune 500 companies. We have provided solutions to various financial institutions in various application areas. In addition, our technology is particularly well-suited to operations where one requires a complex authorization process to issue a single digital signature. Thus we have major software vendors using our technology to perform code signing, and various crypto-currency exchanges using our signing solutions.
DJ: Does quantum computing present an added risk to computer systems?
Smart: If a quantum computer is ever built then a vast number of cryptographic algorithms will be rendered instantly obsolete. Thus one needs to think about transitioning to so-called Post-Quantum Cryptography. These are algorithms which are believed to be secure in the presence of a quantum computer. Already we think about this when designing new protocols, and Unbound is working in this space. We helped design a submission to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Post-Quantum Cryptography competition for example.