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Federated Learning and Quantum-Safe Cryptography for Patient Data Protection in Healthcare with OpenFHE


In the digital age, healthcare institutions use data to improve patient care, treatment outcomes, and medical research. However, this surge in data utilization has raised concerns about patient data protection and privacy. Federated Learning (FL) and Quantum-Safe Cryptography (QSC)  have emerged as innovative solutions to address these concerns while preserving the benefits of data-driven healthcare. OpenFHE, a prominent open-source cross-platform software library, combines these two technologies to provide a secure, privacy-preserving framework for collaborative healthcare data analysis.

1. The Challenge of Patient Data Protection in Healthcare

Data Protection in  Healthcare

With the increasing digitization of patient records and medical data, safeguarding sensitive information has become a paramount concern. Patient data protection is essential to maintain trust between healthcare providers, patients, and researchers while adhering to strict data privacy regulations.

2. Understanding Federated Learning (FL) in Healthcare

Federated Learning offers a promising approach to healthcare data analysis by allowing multiple institutions to collaborate without sharing raw data. Instead, models are trained locally, and only aggregated model updates are exchanged, ensuring that patient data remains decentralized and secure.

3. Quantum-Safe Cryptography

Quantum-Safe Cryptography


Quantum computing poses a potential threat to current cryptographic methods, making it essential to adopt quantum-safe cryptography for ensuring long-term data security. Quantum-safe cryptographic algorithms are designed to resist attacks from both classical and quantum computers, offering robust protection for sensitive healthcare data.

4. Introducing OpenFHE:

OpenFHE is an open-source FHE(Fully Homomorphic Encryption) library that includes efficient implementations of all common FHE schemes. OpenFHE provides the capability for computations on encrypted data, allowing the library’s users to perform various operations while maintaining the privacy and security of sensitive information. It amalgamates essential design principles from prior FHE projects such as PALISADE, HElib, and HEAAN while incorporating fresh and inventive design concepts.

a. What is Homomorphic Encryption (HE)?

Homomorphic encryption enables (HE) computations on encrypted data, ensuring that data remains confidential even during processing. HE represents a form of encryption that enables computations to be conducted on encrypted data while maintaining the property that performing operations on encrypted information and subsequently decrypting the outcome is comparable to carrying out analogous operations without encryption. Unlike Secure Multi-Party Computation (SMPC), which necessitates the cooperation of multiple parties, HE allows for the achievement of input privacy with a single entity responsible for both encryption and decryption.

Homomorphic Encryption

The significance of HE extends beyond safeguarding data proprietors. Those who possess valuable intellectual property (IP), similar to the concerns clients have for their data, encounter analogous privacy apprehensions. Thus, when deploying a model within an untrustworthy environment, it becomes imperative to maintain the encryption of its parameters to ensure their confidentiality.

Homomorphic encryption finds wide-ranging applications spanning healthcare, smart electric grids, education, and machine learning as a service (MLaaS). It holds relevance in sectors where ensuring input privacy is of the utmost importance, and data utilization is inherently intricate due to factors like regulations, data sensitivity, and security considerations. Additionally, this technology extends to noteworthy functions such as non-intrusive, privacy-preserving security. 

In this context, systems capable of detecting malicious activities using encrypted and confidential data sources emerge as a parallel. A fitting comparison for these systems would be to liken them to digital data “sniffer dogs.” Similar to these canines, they don’t compromise privacy due to encryption measures. Moreover, their precision is verifiable through empirical means, and as their parameters remain undisclosed, reverse engineering proves to be a formidable challenge.

In the age of data-driven decision-making, the convergence of Federated Learning (FL) and Quantum-Safe Cryptography (QSC) has emerged as a dynamic duo, addressing the pressing need for robust data security and privacy. Let’s explore how these two cutting-edge technologies synergize to create a secure environment for collaborative data analysis:

b. Federated Learning: Privacy-Preserving Collaboration

Federated Learning transforms the conventional data-sharing paradigm. Instead of centralizing data, FL enables multiple entities to collaboratively train machine learning models while keeping raw data decentralized. This decentralized approach holds paramount significance in sensitive domains like healthcare, where patient data protection is a top priority.

5. The Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC) Standardization Process

It is an ongoing effort to identify and standardize cryptographic algorithms that are believed to be resistant to attacks from quantum computers. Quantum computers have the potential to break many of the currently used cryptographic schemes, which rely on the difficulty of certain mathematical problems, like integer factorization and discrete logarithms.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) initiated a formal process to standardize PQC algorithms in order to ensure that secure cryptographic methods are available once quantum computers become a practical threat. The process can be summarized in several steps:

a. Call for Submissions

NIST invited the cryptographic community to submit proposals for PQC algorithms. This call was made to researchers and organizations worldwide, encouraging them to submit their novel cryptographic schemes that are believed to be quantum-resistant.

b. First Round

In the first round of the process, NIST received a large number of submissions. These submissions underwent a thorough evaluation, including an analysis of their security, performance, and practicality. NIST then released a report summarizing the first-round candidates and their characteristics.

c. Second Round

After the initial evaluation, NIST selected a smaller set of algorithms from the first round for further evaluation in the second round. The aim was to narrow down the pool of candidates to those that are both secure and efficient.

d. Third Round

During the third round, NIST scrutinized various options, resulting in the selection of four candidate algorithms for standardization. Two primary algorithms, CRYSTALS-KYBER (key-establishment) and CRYSTALS-Dilithium (digital signatures), have been endorsed for most applications. In addition, FALCON and SPHINCS+ will also be standardized.

NIST PQC Standardization Process

NIST has chosen CRYSTALS-KYBER and CRYSTALS-Dilithium due to their robust security and high performance. FALCON’s inclusion is driven by use cases where CRYSTALS-Dilithium signatures might be impractical due to size, and SPHINCS+ is selected to diversify security by not solely relying on lattice security. Public feedback on a reduced signature version of SPHINCS+ is welcomed.

NIST will draft new standards for these selected algorithms in collaboration with the respective submission teams to ensure compliance with specifications. The community’s input, especially for parameter sets in security category 1, will be sought. After a period of public commentary, NIST will revise the standards based on feedback, leading to final review, approval, and promulgation. 

e. Fourth Round

Moving to the fourth round, several Key-Establishment Mechanisms (KEMs) candidates advance, including BIKE, Classic McEliece, HQC, and SIKE. BIKE and HQC are based on structured codes and offer lattice-independent solutions. SIKE’s compact key and ciphertext sizes make it a contender. While Classic McEliece is not being standardized now due to its large key size, it remains under consideration.

6. How do FL & QSC Work Together?

The synergy between FL and QSC creates a powerful ecosystem for secure collaborative data analysis:

a. Privacy-Preserving Model Aggregation: FL’s model aggregation phase, where model updates are combined, can expose sensitive information. QSC intervenes by employing quantum-resistant encryption to secure these updates, thwarting unauthorized access.

b. Homomorphic Encryption for Data Privacy: Homomorphic encryption, a subset of QSC, enables computations on encrypted data without decryption. This property is leveraged in FL to conduct analyses on encrypted data, preserving individual privacy during collaborative learning.

Data Encryption

c. Quantum-Resistant Data Transmission: When model updates are transmitted between participants, QSC ensures that these updates remain encrypted with algorithms invulnerable to both classical and potential quantum attacks.

d. Data Fusion with Quantum Resilience: The fusion of model updates from various participants is shielded from quantum eavesdropping through the application of quantum-safe cryptographic techniques.

e. Privacy Preservation: OpenFHE ensures that patient data remains encrypted throughout the analysis process, preventing any unauthorized access to sensitive information.

Regulatory Compliance

f. Data Security: The combination of federated learning and quantum-safe cryptography offers robust protection against evolving cyber threats, including those posed by quantum computers.

g. Regulatory Compliance: OpenFHE aligns with stringent data protection regulations such as HIPAA and GDPR, enabling healthcare institutions to comply with legal requirements.

g. Collaborative Research: Researchers can collaborate across institutions while maintaining data ownership and control, facilitating groundbreaking medical discoveries.

7. Implementation and Challenges

a. Technical Implementation: Integrating OpenFHE into existing healthcare infrastructure requires careful planning and technical expertise.

b. Computational Overhead: Homomorphic encryption introduces computational overhead, which may impact the speed of data analysis. However, advancements in hardware and algorithms are mitigating this concern.

8. Future Directions

a. Advancements in Quantum-Safe Cryptography: Continued research into quantum-safe cryptographic algorithms will enhance the security and longevity of data protection methods.

b. Optimized Federated Learning: Refining FL techniques can lead to better performance, faster convergence, and reduced communication overhead.

c. Wider Adoption: As awareness of OpenFHE grows, more healthcare institutions are likely to adopt this technology, fostering a more collaborative and secure healthcare ecosystem.


In the age of data-driven healthcare, patient data protection and privacy are non-negotiable. Federated Learning and Quantum-Safe Cryptography, coupled with the innovative OpenFHE platform, offer a robust solution to these challenges. By enabling collaborative analysis while maintaining the highest levels of data security, OpenFHE paves the way for transformative breakthroughs in medical research, diagnosis, and treatment, all while safeguarding patient privacy.

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