Keeping health data lock and key


Health data should be safely stored for life. Credit: Patrick Bal

Researchers at Technologies Union Research Center developed a solution to the Universität Darmstadt (Germany) technology to provide safe access to sensitive health data in the joint project with Japanese and Canadian partners over a decade. The presentation of the primary prototype was held recently in China in Beijing. The system will be launched in Japan next week.


The introduction of electronic patient system in Germany and internationally was discussed in a short time. However, development is often delayed on data security. Health care data, namely, the progress of modern medicine is more frequently encountered than ever before – whether it should be safely stored for life or for a few generations.

The main challenge is technological development, which will occur on this extended period because it has a huge impact on the safety of existing cryptographic schemes. "All the encryption methods used today will become unprotected over the next few years and decades," Professor Johannes Buchman, spokeswoman for the Collaborative Research Center, explains. "The computing power of the attackers will increase and their attacks will be improved, so we can assume that all encrypted data will be compromised in 20 years if not soon."

Long-term confidentiality through "secret sharing"

Buchmann and his team are working to avoid 2015 in cooperation with NICT (Institute of Information Technologies and Communications Technology) of Japan Research Institute. They cooperate with the project "LINCOS – Long-term Integrity and Privacy Protection System". In 2017, Japanese hospital operator Koki Health Sciences Center and Canadian company ISARA joined the project. The LINCOS system is the first that combines information theoretical privacy with the protection of renewable integrity. This means that no matter what competent power and algorithms will get in the future, no one can access or change the protected data.

Long-term confidentiality warranty has been achieved through technology, called "Secret Sharing". The original data set applies to several servers so that the individual parts are pointless. Only when the number of parts is known – known as "promotions", combined with the original data on the patient's file can be reconstructed. If one of the servers is compromised, the captured participant does not use the attacker. In addition, the distribution is updated regularly. Integrity, or that data has not changed, quantum computer-resistant signatures have been achieved. But even if the scheme used in the long run is classified, researchers have taken measures: Signature schemes are regularly changed. The protection of integrity is thus guaranteed.

Sustainable protection is required

The Canadian company ISARA, the industrial partner of the project, protects data between the hospital and server operators in quantum computer-resistant encryption. This is the third component of the LINCOS system. In future, researchers need to add another level of security, which they have already realized with the prototype Japanese team: quantum key exchange. This procedure ensures a guarantee of a safe secure key, because it is impossible to prevent the attacker to hinder key exchange. Scientists have even started exchange workshops based on cooperation. This research is working on TU Darmstadt's own quantum laboratory.

"Electronic health records sustainable protection is the only instances where the sustainable security is required, which in our digital world, we are sensitive data in an incredible amount of each day, which must be kept confidential and will remain unchanged for a long time, for example, Industry 4.0 implementation, which is important for Germany I, as an industrial nation, calling the police, to ensure our long-term protection is guaranteed ", – adds buchmani.


Learn further:
Quantum technologies can be used in standard telecommunication networks

Provided by:
University of Technology Darmstadt