Advantages and Disadvantages of Homomorphic Encryption 2023
Our blog post The Advantages and Disadvantages of Homomorphic Encryption continues to be one of our most popular blog posts despite being written in 2019. The continued interest in this topic shows there is still the desire for this functionality, but what has changed in the last four years on this topic? The simple answer is: not much. Homomorphic encryption still comes with its advantages and disadvantages, and mostly remains an unviable option for most use cases.
What is Homomorphic Encryption
It’s hard not to talk about homomorphic encryption before getting into incredibly complex details so for this post I will keep it simple. Homomorphic encryption is a type of encryption that allows operations on data without access to a decryption key, meaning the data is never decrypted even while calculations are performed. It preserves the privacy of the data throughout the entire computation process.
There are different types and levels of homomorphic encryption that perform different classes of computations: Partially homomorphic encryption (PHE), Fully homomorphic encryption (FHE), and Leveled fully homomorphic encryption (LFHE) are some of the categories. All of these are attempting to achieve the same goal – perform calculations without decrypting the data.
Advantages of Homomorphic Encryption
Why does this continue to be an area of interest? As we said in 2019, it represents a holy grail for encryption and data security that enables the best of both worlds. Organizations can establish a higher standard of data security without breaking business processes or application functionality. In the last four years, data privacy regulations have increased significantly, making data security even more important. With the data always encrypted, it theoretically remains one of the most secure options – with heavy emphasis on “theoretically.”
Disadvantages of Homomorphic Encryption
If homomorphic encryption has so many advantages then why isn’t it the industry standard? Ultimately the biggest reason today in 2023 is the same as in 2019 – performance. It requires significant computational overhead to perform intensive calculations on encrypted data, making it either slower or more resource intensive. With the constant challenge of security versus speed, it is nearly impossible for most organizations to even consider adoption of homomorphic encryption to protect their data.
In addition to performance concerns, implementation can be a challenge with highly complex techniques. Depending on the type of homomorphic encryption, it may not support all computations that are needed by organizations. Last, decrypting the data at the application layer means implementing costly, and sometimes complicated, application modifications.
The Good News
With homomorphic encryption not a feasible solution, what can companies do to be able to perform calculations and operations on protected regulated data while maintaining compliance? Fortunately Baffle’s Advanced Encryption feature of our Data Protection products provides the benefit of this technology without the drawbacks of homomorphic encryption. We do this with no application code changes, helping you avoid lengthy projects to protect your data.
To discuss your data protection concerns, please schedule a meeting with Baffle.