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Book ChapterDOI

Space-efficient private search with applications to rateless codes

12 Feb 2007-Vol. 4886, pp 148-162

TL;DR: This work improves the space efficiency of the Ostrovsky et al.

AbstractPrivate keyword search is a technique that allows for searching and retrieving documents matching certain keywords without revealing the search criteria. We improve the space efficiency of the Ostrovsky et al. Private Search [9] scheme, by describing methods that require considerably shorter buffers for returning the results of the search. Our basic decoding scheme recursive extraction, requires buffers of length less than twice the number of returned results and is still simple and highly efficient. Our extended decoding schemes rely on solving systems of simultaneous equations, and in special cases can uncover documents in buffers that are close to 95% full. Finally we note the similarity between our decoding techniques and the ones used to decode rateless codes, and show how such codes can be extracted from encrypted documents.

Topics: Decoding methods (51%)

Summary (4 min read)

1 Introduction

  • Private search allows for keyword searching on a stream of documents (typical of online environments) without revealing the search criteria.
  • Financial applications that can benefit from this technique are, for example, corporate searches on a patents database, searches for financial transactions meeting specific but private criteria and periodic updates of filtered financial news or stock values.
  • The authors extend their scheme to improve the space-efficiency of the returned results considerably by using more efficient coding and decoding techniques.
  • The authors first key contribution is a method called recursive extraction for efficiently decoding encrypted buffers resulting from the Ostrovsky et al. scheme.
  • Solving the remaining equations at colliding buffer positions allows for even more documents to be retrieved from short buffers, and in the special case of documents only matching one keyword, the authors can decode buffers that are only 10% longer than the expected matches, with high probability.

4 Modifications to the Original Scheme

  • A prerequisite for more efficient decoding schemes is to reduce the uncertainty of the party that performs the decoding.
  • At the same time, the party performing the search should gain no additional information with respect to the original scheme.
  • The position pij is then represented by the q most significant bits of the result of the hash.
  • The extension requires that the total number N of searched documents is known to the decoder, and that the positions of all (not just matched) searched documents are known by the decoder.
  • With respect to the original Ostrovsky scheme, their basic algorithm only requires the substitution of the random function U [0, b−1] used to select the buffer positions for the document copies by a pseudorandom function dependent on the document and the copy number, that can be computed by the decoder.

5 Basic Decoding Algorithm: Recursive Extraction

  • Given the minor modifications above, the authors note that much more efficient decoding algorithms can be used, that would allow the use of significantly smaller buffers for the same recovery probability.
  • While collisions are ignored in the original Ostrovsky scheme, their key intuition is that collisions are in fact not destroying all information, but merely adding together the encrypted plaintexts.
  • The decoder decrypts the buffer, and thanks to the redundancy included in the documents, it can discern three states of a particular buffer position: whether it is empty, contains a single document, or contains a collision.
  • Documents ‘3’, ‘5’, ‘7’ and ‘8’ can be trivially recovered (note that these four documents would be the only ones recovered in the original scheme).
  • Once they are removed from the buffer, document ‘6’ can be also retrieved.

6 Extended Decoding Algorithm: Solving Equations

  • The authors basic decoding algorithm may terminate without recovering all matching documents if the authors run into a situation where a group of documents is copied to the same set of buffer positions.
  • The authors key observation is that by expressing these buffer positions as linear equations, the authors can still retrieve the 3 colliding documents.
  • Making predictable the positions of the document copies in the buffer, further reduces uncertainty and allows us to further improve the decoding efficiency.
  • Each document that has a copy in this buffer position is a variable in the equation, and the sum of the actual matched documents equals the value of the bucket.
  • As such, solving equations is complementary to the first decoding technique, and it is always applied after recursive extraction.

6.1 Special Case: Searching for One Keyword

  • In some applications, the decoder may be interested in searching only one keyword in the documents.
  • When retrieving pseudonymous email [11], the decoder would provide his email address as the only keyword for searching in the documents.
  • The technique works as follows: the serial number is appended to the lower end of the document, leaving enough space to accommodate the sum of serial numbers of documents present in the bucket.
  • Note that a lower number of bits between log2(N) and 2 log2(N) may be sufficient, since the average number of matched documents in a buffer position is generally much lower than the worst case.
  • Note that in the general case of searching K keywords yi takes values between zero and K.

6.2 Tight Packing of Encrypted Lists and Bit Fields

  • In the previous section the authors described how they can use a single Paillier ciphertext to encode, space permitting, both the serial number of the document and the document itself.
  • In many cases (e.g., the first element of each buffer position in the Ostrovsky scheme, the representation of the serial number, or the Bloom filter entry) only a small plaintext is to be represented.
  • The authors can do this by using only one Paillier ciphertext and packing as many elements as possible into it.
  • Consider that the authors have two ciphertexts E(i) and E(j), representing two fields.
  • The authors assume that the cryptographic protocols they shall perform will never result in a sum of those fields being greater than b bits long.

7 Experimental Results

  • The authors present in Figures 5 and 6 simulation results1 illustrating the performance of recursive extraction and solving equations for different sets of parameters.
  • Figures 5(b) and 5(d) show the probability of success of their techniques based on solving equations, for buffers of length 100 and 1000, respectively.
  • Since solving equations can only be done after recursive extraction, these probabilities of success have to be seen as providing the possibility to get all documents and 5(c)).
  • The authors observe that too few or too many copies, reduce the recovery rate of documents.
  • This is only the case if one assumes a buffer of infinite size – and therefore an optimal parameter for the number of copies has to be calculated for each set of practical values of buffer size and expected matches.

8 Applications to Rateless Codes

  • Maymounkov and Mazires in [8] introduce “rateless codes”, a method for erasure resistant, multi-source coding.
  • These codes have been designed to be used in a peer-to-peer context, where Alice maybe downloading the same file from multiple sources, with no coordination between sources.
  • Bob sends check blocks to Alice, that decodes them.
  • The mapping between auxiliary blocks and check blocks is determined only by the pseudo-random number sequences for which the seeds are known, and therefore she is able to tell when a decryption would be successful.
  • As a result of this property of El-Gamal ciphertexts, not only messages encrypted blockwise using this cipher can be expanded into rateless codes served from multiple sources, but also the receiver of these blocks can perform the decoding and reconstruct a valid El-Gamal encrypted representation of the original message.

9 Conclusions

  • The authors have presented in this paper efficient decoding mechanisms for private search.
  • The size of the returned buffer with matched documents is the key to the success of private search schemes.
  • If the size of this buffer is too long, any scheme can simply be reduced to transmitting back all the documents, which would save in complexity and cryptographic costs.
  • The proposed decoding methods reduce by a significant constant factor the buffer sizes required by the Ostrovsky et al.
  • Recursive extraction and solving equations are complementary and can be applied sequentially to extract a maximum number of documents from short buffers.

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Space-Efficient Private Search
with Applications to Rateless Codes
George Danezis and Claudia Diaz
K.U. Leuven, ESAT/COSIC,
Kasteelpark Arenberg 10,
B-3001 Leuven-Heverlee, Belgium
{george.danezis, claudia.diaz}@esat.kuleuven.be
Abstract. Private keyword search is a technique that allows for search-
ing and retrieving documents matching certain keywords without reveal-
ing the search criteria. We improve the space efficiency of the Ostrovsky
et al. Private Search [9] scheme, by describing methods that require con-
siderably shorter buffers for returning the results of the search. Our ba-
sic decoding scheme recursive extraction, requires buffers of length less
than twice the number of returned results and is still simple and highly
efficient. Our extended decoding schemes rely on solving systems of si-
multaneous equations, and in special cases can uncover documents in
buffers that are close to 95% full. Finally we note the similarity between
our decoding techniques and the ones used to decode rateless codes, and
show how such codes can be extracted from encrypted documents.
1 Introduction
Private search allows for keyword searching on a stream of documents (typical
of online environments) without revealing the search criteria. Its applications
include intelligence gathering, medical privacy, private information retrieval and
financial applications. Financial applications that can benefit from this technique
are, for example, corporate searches on a patents database, searches for financial
transactions meeting specific but private criteria and periodic updates of filtered
financial news or stock values.
Rafail Ostrovsky et al. presented in [9] a scheme that allows a server to filter a
stream of documents, based on matching keywords, and only return the relevant
documents without gaining any information about the query string. This allows
searching to be outsourced, and only relevant results to be returned, economising
on communications costs. The authors of [9] show that the communication cost
is linear in the number of results expected. We extend their scheme to improve
the space-efficiency of the returned results considerably by using more efficient
coding and decoding techniques.
Our first key contribution is a method called recursive extraction for effi-
ciently decoding encrypted buffers resulting from the Ostrovsky et al. scheme.
The second method, based on solving systems of linear equations, is applied af-
ter recursive extraction and allows for the recovery of extra matching documents
S. Dietrich and R. Dhamija (Eds.): FC 2007 and USEC 2007, LNCS 4886, pp. 148–162, 2007.
c
IFCA/Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2007

Space-Efficient Private Search 149
from the encrypted buffers. Recursive extraction results in the full decoding of
buffers of length twice the size of the expected number of matches, and has a
linear time-complexity. Shorter bufferscanalsobedecryptedwithhighprob-
ability. Solving the remaining equations at colliding buffer positions allows for
even more documents to be retrieved from short buffers, and in the special case
of documents only matching one keyword, we can decode buffers that are only
10% longer than the expected matches, with high probability. We present simula-
tions to assess the decoding performance of our techniques, and estimate optimal
parameters for our schemes.
In this work we also present some observations that may be of general interest
beyond the context of private search. We show how arrays of small integers
can be represented in a space efficient manner using Pailler ciphertexts, while
maintaining the homomorphic properties of the scheme. These techniques can be
used to make private search more space-efficient, but also implement other data
structures like Bloom filters, or vectors in a compact way. Finally we show how
rateless codes, block based erasure resistant multi-source codes, can be extracted
from encrypted documents, while maintaining all their desirable properties.
This paper is structured as follows: We introduce the related work in Section 2;
present more in detail in Section 3 the original Ostrovsky scheme whose efficiency
we are trying to improve; and explain in Section 4 the required modifications.
Sections 5 and 6 present the proposed efficient decoding techniques, which are
evaluated in Section 7. In Section 8 we explain how our techniques can be applied
to rateless codes; and we present our conclusions in Section 9.
2 Related Work
Our results can be applied to improve the decoding efficiency of the Private
Search scheme proposed by Rafail Ostrovsky et al. in [9]. This scheme is described
in detail in Section 3. Danezis and Diaz proposed in [5] some preliminary ideas on
how to improve the decoding efficiency of the Ostrovsky Private Search scheme,
which are elaborated in this paper.
Bethencourt et al. [1,2] have independently proposed several modifications to
the Ostrovsky private searchscheme which include solving a system of linear equa-
tions to recover the documents. As such, the time complexity of their approach is
O(n
3
), while our base technique, recursive extraction, is O(n). Their technique
also requires some changes to the original scheme [9], such as the addition of an
encrypted buffer that acts as a Bloom filter [3]. This buffer by itself increases by
50% the data returned. Some of our techniques presented in section 6.2, that al-
low for efficient space representation of concatenated data, are complementary to
their work, and would greatly benefit the efficiency of their techniques.
The rateless codes for big downloads proposed by Maymounkov and Mazi`eres
in [8] use a technique similar to ours for efficient decoding, indicating that our
ideas can be applied beyond private search applications. We explore further this
relation in Section 8, where we show how homomorphic encryption can be used
to create rateless codes for encrypted data.

150 G. Danezis and C. Diaz
Pfitzmann and Wainer [13] also notice that collisions in DC networks [4] do
not destroy all information transmitted. They use this observation to allow n
messages to be transmitted in n steps despite collisions.
3PrivateSearch
The Private Search scheme proposed by Ostrovsky et al. [9] is based on the prop-
erties of the homomorphic Paillier public key cryptosystem [10], in which the
multiplication of two ciphertexts leads to the encryption of the sum of the corre-
sponding plaintexts (E(x) · E(y)=E(x + y)). Constructions with El-Gamal [6]
are also possible but do not allow for full recovery of documents.
The searching party provides a dictionary of terms and a corresponding Pail-
lier ciphertext, that is the encryption of one (t
i
= E(1)), if the term is to be
matched, or the encryption of zero (t
i
= E(0)) if the term is of no interest. Be-
cause of the semantic security properties of the Paillier cryptosystem this leaks
no information about the matching criteria.
The dictionary ciphertexts corresponding to the terms in the document d
j
are multiplied together to form g
j
=
k
t
k
= E(m
j
), where m
j
is the number
of matching words in document d
j
. A tuple (g
j
,g
E(d
j
)
j
) is then computed. The
second term will be an encryption of zero (E(0)) if there has been no match, and
the encryption E(m
j
d
j
) otherwise. Note that repeated words in the document
are not taken into account, meaning that each matching word is counted only
once, and m
j
represents the number of different matching words found in a
document.
Each document tuple is then multiplied into a set of l random positions in a
buffer of size b (smaller than the total number of searched documents, but bigger
than the number of matching documents). All buffer positions are initialized with
tuples (E(0),E(0)). The documents that do not match any of the keywords, do
not contribute to changing the contents of these positions in the buffer (since
zero is being added to the plaintexts), but the matched documents do.
Collisions will occur when two matching documents are inserted at the same
position in the buffer. These collisions can be detected by adding some redun-
dancy to the documents. The color survival theorem [9] can be used to show
that the probability that all copies of a single document are overwritten be-
comes negligibly small as the number of l copies and the size of the buffer b
increase (the suggested buffer length is b =2· l · M,whereM is the expected
number of matching documents). The searcher can decode all positions, ignoring
the collisions, and dividing the second term of the tuples by the first term to
retrieve the documents.
4 Modifications to the Original Scheme
A prerequisite for more efficient decoding schemes is to reduce the uncertainty of
the party that performs the decoding. At the same time, the party performing

Space-Efficient Private Search 151
the search should gain no additional information with respect to the original
scheme. In order to make sure of this, we note that the modifications to the
original scheme involve only information flows from the searching (encoding)
party back to the matching (decoding) party, and therefore cannot introduce
any additional vulnerabilities in this respect.
Our basic decoding algorithm (presented in Section 5) only requires that the
document copies are stored in buffer positions known to the decoder. In practice,
the mapping of documents to buffer positions can be done using a good hash
function H(·) that can be agreed by both parties or fixed by the protocol. We
give an example of how this function can be constructed.
Notation:
l is the total of copies stored per document;
d
ij
is the j-th copy of document d
i
(j =1...l) note that all copies of d
i
are equal;
b is the size of the buffer;
q is the number of bits needed to represent b (2
q1
<b 2
q
);
p
ij
is the position of document copy d
ij
in the buffer (0 p
ij
<b).
The hash function is applied to the sum of the the document d
i
and the
copy number j, H(d
i
+ j). The position p
ij
is then represented by the q most
significant bits of the result of the hash. If there is index overflow (i.e., b p
ij
),
then we apply the hash function again (H(H(d
i
+ j))) and repeat the process,
until we obtain a result p
ij
<b. This is illustrated in Figure 1(a).
With this method, once the decoding party sees a copy of a matched doc-
ument, d
i
, it can compute the positions of the buffer where all l copies of d
i
have been stored (and thus extract them from those positions) by applying the
function to d
i
+ j,withj =1...l.
We present in Section 6 an extension to our decoding algorithm that further
improves its decoding efficiency. The extension requires that the total number
N of searched documents is known to the decoder, and that the positions of
all (not just matched) searched documents are known by the decoder. This can
be achieved by adding a serial number s
i
to the documents, and then deriving
the position p
ij
of the document copies as a function of the document serial
number and the number of the copy H(s
i
||j), as shown in Figure 1(b). We then
take the q most significant bits of the result and proceed as in the previous
case.
With respect to the original Ostrovsky scheme, our basic algorithm only re-
quires the substitution of the random function U[0,b1] used to select the buffer
positions for the document copies by a pseudorandom function dependent on the
document and the copy number, that can be computed by the decoder.
The extension requires that the encoder transmits to the decoder the total
number N of documents searched. The encoder should also append a serial
number to the documents (before encrypting them). We assume that the serial
numbers take values between 1 and N (i.e., s
i
= i).

152 G. Danezis and C. Diaz
(a) in the basic algorithm (b) in the extended algorithm
Fig. 1. Function to determine the position of a document copy d
ij
5 Basic Decoding Algorithm: Recursive Extraction
Given the minor modifications above, we note that much more efficient decoding
algorithms can be used, that would allow the use of significantly smaller buffers
for the same recovery probability.
While collisions are ignored in the original Ostrovsky scheme, our key in-
tuition is that collisions are in fact not destroying all information, but merely
adding together the encrypted plaintexts. This property can be used to recover
a plaintext if the values of the other plaintexts with which it collides are known.
The decoder decrypts the buffer, and thanks to the redundancy included in
the documents, it can discern three states of a particular buffer position: whether
it is empty, contains a single document, or contains a collision.
In this basic scheme, the empty buffer positions are of no interest to the
decoder (they do provide useful information in the extended algorithm, as we
shall see in the next section). In the case of it containing a single document d
i
,
then the document can be recovered. By applying the hash function as described
in Section 4 to d
i
+ j with j =1...l, the decoder can locate all the other
copies of d
i
and extract them from the buffer. This hopefully uncovers some
new buffer positions containing only one document. This simple algorithm is
repeated multiple times until all documents are recovered or no more progress
can be made.
In the example shown in Figure 2(a), we match 9 documents and store 3
copies of each in a buffer of size 24. Documents ‘3’, ‘5’, ‘7’ and ‘8’ can be trivially
recovered (note that these four documents would be the only ones recovered in
the original scheme). All copies of these documents are located and extracted

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Frequently Asked Questions (1)
Q1. What are the contributions in "Space-efficient private search with applications to rateless codes" ?

The authors improve the space efficiency of the Ostrovsky et al. Private Search [ 9 ] scheme, by describing methods that require considerably shorter buffers for returning the results of the search. Finally the authors note the similarity between their decoding techniques and the ones used to decode rateless codes, and show how such codes can be extracted from encrypted documents.