Giulio Malavolta wins prestigious ERC Starting Grant

Researcher's project is part of the next generation to receive ERC Starting Grants

September 05, 2023

Giulio Malavolta wins a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant, that way securing funding for his project ‘ObfusQation: Code Obfuscation in a Quantum World’ for the next five years.

Code obfuscation is the practice of intentionally making programs (source code or machine code) more difficult to understand or reverse engineer, often to protect intellectual property or deter unauthorized access.

The goals of the research to be conducted within Malavolta's project are three-fold and while all of them relate to the word 'quantum' in some way, their goals and impacts are distinct: One aspect is the security of known (non-quantum) obfuscation schemes in the light of quantum computing. Indeed, most known constructions can be broken by quantum algorithms (i.e., algorithms to be executed on quantum computing) and the few that survive are based on poorly understood computational assumptions. Therefore, one goal of the project is to answer if and how schemes can be constructed in ways that are post-quantum secure and still fulfill the so-called indistinguishability obfuscation (iO) property. Hereby, iO is a property that can be proven mathematically (and does not rely on heuristics).

The second line of research aims to answer whether quantum programs themselves can be obfuscated against quantum algorithms (Quantum-iO, or short QiO). This is one of Aaronson’s 'semi-grand challenges' for quantum computing theory. It is expected that solving this challenge will result in new cryptographic primitives and the solving of a number of further open problems in quantum cryptography. Finally, the third line of research will examine the applications of Quantum-iO in field beyond cryptography, e.g., its application to complexity theory.

The project will be conducted at the University of Bocconi, Milan, Italy, as host institution.

About Giulio Malavolta

Giulio Malavolta is a faculty member at MPI-SP, since September 1st, 2023 in part time. He is broadly interested in the theory of cryptography and its connections with quantum computation, concurrent systems, cryptocurrencies, and game theory. His recent work focuses on constructing cryptographic schemes with advanced functionalities and finding new applications to real-life systems. Giulio was previously a postdoc with a joint appointment at UC Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University. In fall 2019, he was a research fellow at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing. He completed his Ph.D. in 2019 at Friedrich-Alexander University.

About ERC Grants

ERC (European Research Council) Grants encompass a prestigious portfolio of funding opportunities, with ERC Starting Grants being a notable highlight. Specifically, ERC Starting Grants offer early-career researchers a substantial 1.5 million euros in funding over five years, empowering them to pioneer innovative research and establish themselves as research leaders. ERC Grants, in general, cover a broad spectrum of disciplines and career stages, with the common goal of supporting cutting-edge projects that drive scientific excellence and advance Europe's position at the forefront of global research endeavors.

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