An ASIC accelerator is planned to be developed by Intel for reducing the performance overhead that is associated with FHE technology

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Intel signs agreement with DARPA to perform in the DPRIVE programme. (Credit: Coolcaesar/

Intel and Microsoft will collaborate on a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) programme aimed at developing an accelerator for fully homomorphic encryption (FHE).

In this connection, Intel has signed an agreement with DARPA, which will enable it to perform in the latter’s Data Protection in Virtual Environments (DPRIVE) programme.

According to Intel, Microsoft will play the role of being the key cloud ecosystem and homomorphic encryption partner.

Microsoft will lead the commercial adoption of the encryption technology once developed. This will be done by testing the technology with the US government in Microsoft Azure, the Microsoft JEDI cloud, and other cloud offerings.

Microsoft Azure global chief technology officer and mission systems vice president William Chappell said: “We are pleased to bring our expertise in cloud computing and homomorphic encryption to the DARPA DPRIVE programme, collaborating with Intel to advance this transformative technology when ready into commercial usages that will help our customers close the last-mile gap in data confidentiality – keeping data fully secure and private, whether in storage, transit or use.”

With fully homomorphic encryption, users can compute on always-encrypted data or cryptograms. The data never required to be decrypted, which lessens the chances for cyber threats, said Intel.

When implemented at scale, the technology will help organisations to employ machine learning and other techniques to draw full value from large datasets, said Intel. At the same time, organisations can protect data confidentiality across its life cycle.

On its part, Intel will design an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) accelerator for offsetting the performance overhead that is currently associated with encryption technology.

The company said that the accelerator, when fully realised, can result in a huge improvement in executing fully homomorphic encryption workloads over existing CPU-driven systems. This can help in decreasing the processing time of cryptograms by five orders of magnitude, claimed the company.

Intel said that the multiyear DPRIVE programme will involve a cross-team effort across its Intel Labs, the Design Engineering Group, and the Data Platforms Group units. The teams will work towards addressing the data privacy challenge of computing on fully encrypted data without having access to decryption keys.

Intel Labs principal engineer and DARPA DPRIVE programme principal investigator Rosario Cammarota said: “Fully homomorphic encryption remains the holy grail in the quest to keep data secure while in use.

“Despite strong advances in trusted execution environments and other confidential computing technologies to protect data while at rest and in transit, data is unencrypted during computation, opening the possibility of potential attacks at this stage.

“This frequently inhibits our ability to fully share and extract the maximum value out of data.

“We are pleased to be chosen as a technology partner by DARPA and look forward to working with them as well as Microsoft to advance this next chapter in confidential computing and unlock the promise of fully homomorphic encryption for all.”