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Jean-Sébastien Coron receives an ERC Advanced Grant

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Published on Thursday, 26 April 2018

Jean-Sébastien Coron, Associate Professor in cryptography at the University of Luxembourg, has been awarded the prestigious “Advanced Grant” by the European Research Council (ERC). Funded by the European programme Horizon 2020, Jean-Sébastien Coron and his team will receive up to € 2.5 million over a period of five years to conduct research in cryptography at the University’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT).

The ERC Advanced Grant is the most prestigious individual research grant in Europe and already the third to be awarded to a SnT affiliated researcher.

Emergence of new encryption tools

During the past thirty years, cryptography has become more and more common in all areas of life, from the Internet to voting or banking systems. Two promising techniques have recently emerged to reinforce the privacy and security of citizens and organisations. On the one hand, homomorphic cryptography is a mathematical tool which enables work on encrypted data without decrypting it.  For instance, companies could encrypt their cloud-hosted databases and operate on them without converting records back to plaintext. On the other hand, cryptographic multilinear maps have revolutionised the domain with the emergence of indistinguishability obfuscation (iO), a cutting-edge method that conceals a programme’s code but preserves its functionality.

“Despite these advances, the security of multilinear maps is still poorly understood and many iO schemes have been broken. Moreover, all constructions of iO are currently impractical: obfuscating a program adds huge delays, effectively slowing down running times,” observes Professor Jean-Sébastien Coron. As leader of the Applied Crypto Group (ACG) at the Computer Science and Communications (CSC) research unit of the Faculty of Science, Technology and Communication, Prof. Coron will therefore investigate combining these two methods to find the best solution.

Focusing on mathematical foundations

Jean-Sébastien Coron’s research project “CLOUDMAP: Cloud Computing via Homomorphic Encryption and Multilinear Maps” aims to make cryptographic tasks usable in practice, so that citizens do not have to compromise on the privacy and security of their data. This goal can only be achieved by focusing on the mathematical foundations of these methods, rather than working on early optimisations. In the long term, the project could have an impact on several industries, as it would allow better protection of user data, for example in the context of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that is looming on the horizon. “This ERC grant provides me with the unique opportunity to move the project CLOUDMAP forward by building a strong team with experts in cryptography and mathematics,” comments Jean-Sébastien.

3 ERC Advanced Grants for the University’s SnT

The European Research Council (ERC) is the first pan European funding body designed to support investigator-driven frontier research and stimulate scientific excellence across Europe. ERC Advanced Grants are awarded to well-established researchers who need long-term funding to develop a new and outstanding project.

Coron is the third scientist to be awarded an ERC Advanced Grant at SnT, following Prof. Lionel Briand and Prof. Björn Ottersten. “SnT prides itself on both its cutting edge long-term research and its demand driven research conducted in collaboration with industry. Such grants, which are awarded according to scientific excellence, demonstrate our ability to successfully bridge these two worlds,” says Ottersten, Director of SnT.

Rector Prof. Stéphane Pallage is very proud of this repeated international recognition for ICT researchers at the University: “This clearly shows the exceptional quality of our research in this field and our ability to attract research talent and help them realise their potential,” he commented.

Photo: © University of Luxembourg