IBM launched a free toolkit designed to help developers implement full homomorphic encryption (FHE). This technology allows authorised individuals to read, edit, and store encrypted data without the need to decode it.

The toolkit includes an example implementation to help developers learn how to use the new software, and IBM also provided resources, such as a Slack-channel, to lower the learning curve. The company also wants to offer technical training to enterprise customers.

Contrary to popular belief, encrypted data is not always encrypted. If an application wants to use the data, the encrypted data must be decoded, leaving gaps for hackers to access this data.

FHE does not have this problem. The technology makes it possible for an application to read, edit and store encrypted data without having to re-encrypt that data. Unfortunately, FHE is difficult to implement, but the new toolkit should change this.

Use-cases for FHE

Currently, implementing FHE takes too much effort to be useful on a large scale, but applications are being developed for companies, such as banks, that work with sensitive data. Customer analytics is an important use-case for IBM. The company already worked with the Brazilian bank, Banco Bradesco S.A., on a project in which analysts performed queries on an encrypted customer dataset without decoding the encrypted data.

IBM also focuses on data-sharing. Healthcare organisations often share medical datasets for research purposes, but must also ensure that patient data is not compromised. FHE makes it possible to encrypt parts of a dataset, allowing authorities to analyse the non-sensitive data.

The toolkit is now available on iOS and macOS. In a few weeks, IBM plans to add support for Linux and add an Android version.