Getting a handle on Craig Gentry’s “fully homomorphic encryption scheme” is, well, challenging. It’s a process that allows encrypted data to be analyzed without having to decrypt or sacrifice the confidentiality of the data that’s being analyzed, so even the entity analyzing it does not have access to it. (Got that?) Charles Lickel, a former VP of software research at IBM, says it’s a bit like “enabling a layperson to perform flawless neurosurgery while blindfolded, and without later remembering the episode.”
Gentry works at Big Blue’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights and is responsible for the breakthrough that made fully homomorphic encryption viable in 2009. It’s an astounding feat when you consider that even those who first conceptualized the process in 1978 were unable to see it to fruition. Today, Gentry’s research is making cloud computing more secure, and Gentry was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2014.