Digital Cash

Timothy C. May tcmay at
Sat Mar 26 11:13:35 PST 1994

Hal Finney writes:

> The other issue, which I know less about, is the possibility of cryptograph-
> ically strong obfuscated code.  Mike Duvos first mentioned this.  You could
> have an algorithm running on your own computer and have it be impossible to
> determine what it is doing, or (presumably) to effectively alter the internals
> of the algorithm.
.....stuff elided...

> discussing here (self-decrypting code and such tricks), but rather some
> mathematically strong transformation has been done on the structure of the
> code to hide it in a cryptographically strong way.
> I vaguely recall hearing about such technologies, but I can't remember
> where now.  Can anyone provide some references, or (better) a summary of
> how this works and what can actually be accomplished along these lines?

"Computing with Encrypted Instances," by Joan Feigenbaum, then of
Stanford, now of AT&T (I believe). Work done in the mid-80s on using
cryptography to allow this kind of protection.

Canonical example: Acme Sales Company want to optimize the route its
salesmen take between sales sites. It wants Otto's Optimizing to do
this, but it doesn't want to provide Otto with its list of sales

So it first does a transformation of the list of sales sites into a
form that does not reveal the actual sales sites (the similarity with
knapsack encryption is apparent), submits this to Otto, who optimizes
the routing, and then returns the results to Acme. Acme then reverses
the transformation and has an optimized sales list.

The similarities with zero knowledge work are apparent (in zero
knowledge interactive proof systems, one proves one knows something
without actually shwoing what one knows).

This may not be exactly what Hal was thinking of, but it's a starting

Brad Cox, of Objective-C notoriety, and now at George Mason
University, has also been interested in this area of "complexifying"
code so that reverse engineering is difficult or impossible.

There was also some widely-reported work on new methods of proof which
involved probabalistic methods. This was reported in Science, Science
News, and other such places about 2 years ago. (The scheme involves
transforming/rewriting mathematical proofs into much larger versions
which can then be "spot-checked" in a Monte Carlo way....if the
spot-checks are OK, one gains confidence that the overall proof is

Again, this may only be tangentially related ot the issues Mike and
Hal have been discussing, but I sense that ther'e a connection.

--Tim May

Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,  
tcmay at       | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-688-5409           | knowledge, reputations, information markets, 
W.A.S.T.E.: Aptos, CA  | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^859433 | Public Key: PGP and MailSafe available.
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