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ITI Distinguished Lecture: Amit Sahai, "Hiding Secrets in Software"

Event Type
Information Trust Institute
Coordinated Science Laboratory Auditorium (B02 CSL)
Apr 8, 2015   4:00 pm  
Amit Sahai, University of California, Los Angeles


From revolutionaries and spies to ordinary citizens living under repressive regimes, for centuries people have had the need to hide operational secrets. Through many clever means, people throughout history managed to protect such secrets. Essential to such protection was the refuge of the human mind, the essential sanctuary where secrets can be pondered and processed without fear of loss.

But what if this most basic assumption proves false? What if an adversary can read someone’s mind while she is thinking about the secret she needs to protect? Indeed, it is hard to imagine how someone can protect secrets when the inner dialogue of her mind can betray her.

Fortunately, that scenario remains science fiction when applied to humanity. However, if we replace humans with computer programs, the situation is all too common. Computer programs, with inbuilt databases of sensitive information, are routinely captured by adversarial entities. Those adversaries can see every detail of how these programs “think” about their secrets as they perform their calculations, and even modify the “thoughts” of these programs as they process their secrets.  

In this talk, we will discuss new mathematical techniques to protect secrets within software, and the many applications that such protection enables.


Professor Amit Sahai received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT in 2000. From 2000 to 2004, he was on the faculty at Princeton University; in 2004 he joined UCLA, where he currently holds the position of Professor of Computer Science. His research interests are in security and cryptography, and theoretical computer science more broadly. He has published more than 100 original technical research papers at venues such as the ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing (STOC), CRYPTO, and the Journal of the ACM. He has given a number of invited talks at institutions such as MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley, including the 2004 Distinguished Cryptographer Lecture Series at NTT Labs, Japan. Professor Sahai is the recipient of numerous honors; he was named an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellow in 2002, and received an Okawa Research Grant Award in 2007, a Xerox Foundation Faculty Award in 2010, a Google Faculty Research Award in 2010, and a 2012 Pazy Memorial Award. His research has been covered by several news agencies, including the BBC World Service, Quanta Magazine, and IEEE Spectrum.


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