Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Indian Statistical Institute to get Rs. 1.15 billion cryptology research centre

Encryption technology is set to take a leap in Kolkata with a dedicated research centre at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI). Home of code language research for more than a decade, ISI will soon host the RC Bose Centre for Cryptology and Security. To be set up at a cost of Rs. 1.15 billion and funded by the central government, it will conduct research on developing encrypted data transfer, primarily for defence and finance. ISI already has a cryptology research group (CRG) that has been working on encrypting classified data for transmission.

With the research centre, ISI will make a foray into the practical aspects of cryptology. So far, it has only been working on the theoretical part. "Our primary job has been to develop theories and pass them on to the agencies for which we have been working. But once we have a research centre, we must also delve into the practical part. In terms of theoretical research, it will be an extension of CRG activities that we have been involved in since 2000. The ambit and nature of research will, of course, be far more extensive," said Rana Barua, professor, statistics and mathematics unit and a member of CRG.

The research centre will also run cryptograph courses. It could offer a diploma or a degree course on cryptology. "We need more researchers and trained people to carry on the job. Courses are the obvious way of having more trained hands," said Barua. The research centre will have 15 to 20 research scholars, post-doctoral students and visiting professors. Many from the CRG will be joining the centre.

"It will be a centre of excellence that will encourage independent research. Funds have been sanctioned and we are waiting for the money to arrive," said Bimal Roy, Director, ISI. He added that the centre will not restrict itself merely to theoretical research. "In the long run, we must look into the possibility of exploring the practical part. It will be a comprehensive research unit," said Roy.

ISI initiated research on cryptology in 2000. It has been holding a cryptology conference every year since then. The institute has developed indigenous cryptology codes for defence and finance that have often been used. Even though government agencies also use commercially available encryption, they are not considered fully safe.

"It can be decoded by the company providing it. So, commercial encryption is not trusted. Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) uses its own encryption techniques. We have been in the fray for seven or eight years," said an ISI official. The centre will be set up on an ISI-owned plot on BT Road, a few kilometres from the main campus.

Source: The Times of India, March 11, 2014

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