A team of top security researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and MIT have come together to launch a new cryptographic project that combines secure software and hardware to enable privacy-preserving smart contracts under the banner of Oasis Labs. That vision, which is being marketed as the baby of a union between Ethereum and Amazon Web Services, has managed to attract $45 million in pre-sale financing from some of the biggest names in venture capital and cryptocurrency investing.

The chief architect of the project (and chief executive of Oasis Labs) is University of Berkeley Professor Dawn Song, a security expert who first came to prominence in 2009 when she was named one of as one of MIT Technology Review’s Innovators under 35. Song’s rise in the security world was capped with both a MacArthur Fellowship and a Guggenheim Award for her work on security technologies. But it’s the more recent work that she’s been doing around hardware and software development in conjunction with other Berkeley researchers like her postdoctoral associate, Raymond Cheng, that grabbed investors attention.

Through the Keystone enclave hardware project, Song and Cheng worked with MIT researchers and professors like Srini Devadas and Ilia Lebedev on technology to secure sensitive data on the platform. “We use a combination of trusted hardware and cryptographic techniques (such as secure multiparty computation) to enable smart contracts to compute over this encrypted data, without revealing anything about the underlying data.

This is like doing computation inside a black box, which only outputs the computation result without showing what’s inside the black box,” Song wrote to me in an email. “In addition to supporting existing trusted hardware implementations, we are also working on a fully open source trusted hardware enclave implementation; a project we call Keystone. We also have years of experience building differential privacy tools, which are now being used in production at Uber for their data privacy initiatives.

We plan to incorporate such techniques into our smart contract platform to further provide privacy and protect the computation output from leaking sensitive information about inputs.” Song says that her project has solved the scaling problem by separating execution from consensus. “For each smart contract execution, we randomly select a subset of the computation nodes to form a computation committee, using a proof of stake mechanism. Read more from techcrunch.com…

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