“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable”, This quote from The Art of War by Sun Tzu, as written on one of my Cryptography and Network Security text book, is what made me interested in this particular subject, Cryptography. As a computer scientist, we tend to measure a lot of things, and prepare of one consequences, using a worst case scenario approach. For example: how long a particular algorithm will run, what’s the likelihood of a cloud service failing, what happen when someone read my secret messages. Using worst case scenario mindset, that quote from Sun Tzu is just so in place of thinking on how to prepare from enemies’ attack, or in Cryptography term, Adversaries. We shouldn’t assume that our secret information will stay safe wherever they are, we should take precaution measures to protect them. Because of those motivations I am applying to TU Delft, choosing Master of Science in Computer Science, Software and Technology Track. To this very reason also I am choosing Cryptography and Information Security specialization.
In the last year of my Bachelor’s program, I finished a thesis titled “Gentry’s Fully Homomorphic Encryption Scheme over Integer and Its Implementation Using the Python Programming Language”. Finishing this in a semester of four months with total credit of 6, I received a perfect score of “A” for both the thesis and the defense. This thesis was about an implementation of currently developed encryption scheme based on a 2009 Ph.D. dissertation of Craig Gentry from Stanford University. In his dissertation, Gentry bring up a scheme of a long awaited idea in the world of Cryptography, Fully Homomorphism in Encryption. This idea firstly posed by Rivest, Adleman and Dertouzous in 1978 yet have not find an implementation, allows us to delegate our data processing to a third party without granting them any of information regarding the data being processed, eliminating the need of fully trusting any third party that process our data. In my thesis, I implemented an integer version of Gentry’s scheme using Python programming language. I chose to use Python because of its availability in any platform, its support in multi paradigm of object oriented and functional programming, and also its features and libraries that ease me in code implementation. I also created some test cases to test the scheme’s performance in variable plaintext and key sizes.
While browsing to the web pages of Computer Science School in TU Delft, it piqued my curiosity that in TU Delft you have several Special Interest Groups that does research on a lot of interesting subjects, one of the group that make me interested is the one that called Cyber Security Group where one of the research topic there is about Homomorphic Encryption. I got excited because not only it is quite similar with what I studied for my undergraduate thesis, but also this particular group is relatively new group in TU Delft, as new as January 2014, yet it has a lot of promising research topic there, for example: research about Secure Information Sharing, Lightweight Cryptography, and application of Quantum Information Theory. This special interest group focusing on Information Security and especially Cryptography is one of the thing that I hardly find in my previous university or even my country Indonesia, it was uncommon for a student to be interested in Information Security, let alone having special research group that do focused research on that particular subject. I also interested in the fact that in TU Delft you can expand your knowledge by taking a subjects that are not taught as part of our study program by following electives or minors. This is great because I would like to take elective course in Project Management, having worked in a small and new startup company in Jakarta allows me to have a deep knowledge in how a Software projects are done from start until finish, a course in Project Management will help me to re-evaluate my knowledge I gained from work experience and to find out more about other industry related Project Management.
Information Security, particularly Cryptography, offers broad range of topics that still open for research. Personally, I would choose a topic in Quantum Information Theory. From what I read, Quantum Information Theory differs significantly from classical Information Theory in the term of unit that is used to store the information. In Quantum Information Theory, a qubit, i.e. quantum bit is used as a unit of storing information instead of a bit, this allows the information to be stored as a superposition state and continuous-valued instead of a discrete value of one-state bit. An advancement in Quantum Information Theory and Quantum Computing will also jeopardize most existing used Cryptosystems (for example, an integer factorization problem can be solved in polynomial time using Shor’s algorithm), thus researching a Cryptosystem that can survive beyond Quantum Computer and Quantum Algorithm usage will be interested. Quantum Information Theory also opens a new field in which collaboration with researchers from other discipline, especially Physics as Quantum Mechanic is one of the bleeding edge research topic in that field of expertise.
I also interested in the topic of Identity Based Encryption and its usage using a biometric data. Usually one uses an email address as the ID in Identity Based Encryption to be used as a public key in the scheme, email is used because it is unique enough in the sense of uniqueness in ownership. This approach however pose a problem because it requires a receiver of a message to have a working email address so that they can derive a public key out of it, in the developing country for example, an access to create and use email address is bounded by internet speed, availability, and also people ability. What if we can use biometric data to uniquely identify each person and thus use it instead as a public key? For example we can use fingerprint scans, retina scans, or even DNA sample from a people and use it as a public key. One of the application of this idea is to be used as a way for a government to store its people data in secret, also enabling them and possibly another person to send a secret information to the people, e.g.: medical histories, tax reports, personal announcement, etc.
To sum up, a prospect to study in TU Delft will grant me an excellent research opportunity with best of people in the world, allowing me to improve my knowledge and deepen my ability in solving real world problem. It will also give me one chance in a lifetime to bring back knowledge that I attained there to Indonesia, where research in the field of Cryptography and Information Security is still in its early days. Personally, I’m that people who believe in order to change the future we need to take an active part in it, applying to TU Delft is one of my first active parts in changing the future, to be accepted and studying for Master in there are the next steps.
Prahesa K Setia
TU Delft ’15-’17