News Release

Cybernetica’s senior researcher Peeter Laud received a research grant from the Estonian Research Council to research the creation of distributed identity

Grant and Award Announcement

Estonian Research Council

Peeter Laud, photo by Paul Meiesaar

image: Peeter Laud, photo by Paul Meiesaar view more 

Credit: Photo is by Paul Meiesaar

The Estonian Research Council has issued a research grant of 769 600 Euros for four years to Cybernetica’s senior researcher Peeter Laud. Laud will lead a research project consisting of three directions focused on single points of failure of digital identity proofs.

“Digital identity systems are a cornerstone of our society. Distributing the functionalities of such systems as much as possible allows us to remove single points of failure, and improve the privacy properties of the system. It may also allow us to better carry over the formation of someones identity to the digital world,” commented Laud.

Helen Post, the head of research grants at the Estonian Research Council, explained that the purpose of research grants is to support the implementation of high-level research and development projects, and the applications are evaluated by international expert committees. "It is a pleasure to note that there are world-class scientists in Estonia, such as Peeter Laud, who contribute to the development of science with the help of research support," he added.

There are three main research directions in the grant project. The first explores how digital evidences can be issued and used in ways that are as private as possible for the users. For this, cryptographic technologies are used, especially zero-knowledge proofs, so that the user can reveal to the relying party (i.e., the server) only what is needed for the relying party. “We believe that the creation of these technologies will greatly benefit from the zero-knowledge proof compiler, which we have been creating and developing at Cybernetica for nearly three years,” said Laud.
Laud and the team will be developing protocols that require users to apply a private key. Managing these keys is non-trivial, and the correct ways to do so may depend on the specific protocol. Threshold cryptography can be used for more secure key management, i.e., methods similar to SplitKey. The second research direction of the grand project focuses on proposing these methods, among other things, for post-quantum secure protocols. The SplitKey technology patented by Cybernetica is used, for example, in Smart-ID.

The third direction of the grant project examines how a person's identity is formed and how electronic identity management can take advantage of these forms of formation. "Based on the idea that identity is a collection of attributes, we discuss how these collections can assert something about each other and how to evaluate the truth value of these assertions," said Peeter Laud.

“The world is moving rapidly towards digital identity solutions to provide meaningful value to citizens, service providers and governments. Privacy in regards to digital identity is a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed and Peeter's research on zero-knowledge proofs is another commitment by Cybernetica and Peeter to provide world class eID solutions whilst preserving end users’ personal data, which is an absolute must today and, in the future,” explained Cybernetica’s Head of Digital Identity Technologies Department Michael Buckland. “Peeter's work with threshold cryptography for private key protection is already providing positive and effective outcomes every day and as we move to a post quantum world, it's work like Peeter's that will drive a new level of unbreakable protection mechanisms. The research outcomes that Peeter provides for Cybernetica's Digital Identity Technologies Department is not only ground breaking, it is at the heart of our competitive edge, allowing us to continue providing future proofed identity solutions here in Estonia and around the world," said Buckland.

Peeter's research interests cluster around programming language semantics, and privacy-preserving computations. He received his PhD in 2002 from the University of Saarland in Saarbrücken, Germany. He has worked in Cybernetica since 1998, and has also held positions at University of Tartu, where he is currently a visiting professor. He has published more than 70 peer-reviewed research papers. He regularly serves in the program committees of top conferences. He holds patents on distributed cryptography.

Notable past and current projects, where Peeter was the PI:
UaESMC (FP7; secure multiparty computation);
NAPLES (DARPA; measuring privacy);
PROVENANCE (DARPA; programming support for zero-knowledge protocols).

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