# Secret Sharing

by Alexandra Albu

Secret sharing is a very nice cryptographic primitive which is based on an ingenious yet simple idea. Although the main concept is pretty old, it still finds many applications in various fields.

The main motivation behind the development of secret sharing schemes was cryptographic keys management. Otherwise a difficult task, secure storage of cryptographic keys can be easily done using secret sharing. Simply encrypting the keys does not solve the problem, as the used encryption key still needs to be managed. On the other hand, the keys can’t be stored in plaintext - saving them in a single place is unreliable as they can be lost, while storing multiple copies of a key increases the risk of it being found by an attacker (1).

Secret sharing solves these problems using a clever idea. The method consists in splitting a secret - in the above scenario,
the encryption key - into multiple parts, called *shares*, such that each individual share reveals nothing about the secret.
The secret can, however, be reconstructed by authorized groups (called *access structures*). A scheme in which a secret is
reconstructed given a sufficiently large group of shares is called a *threshold secret sharing scheme*. In this blog post
we will discuss only this type of schemes.

Some less straightforward, but very interesting applications of secret sharing are secure multiparty computation protocols. These protocols
allow users to compute a function over some inputs $x_1, x_2,…, x_n$ where $x_i$ is a secret known only by the $i^{th}$ user (2).
Such secure computations can vary from simple sums over encrypted data - with applications in electronic voting - to data mining or even
machine learning algorithms (for more on this, check this great blog post).
This is possible due to the *homomorphic* properties of secret sharing schemes - we’ll come back to this later.

From the security point of view, secret sharing schemes can be classified into:

*Perfect*schemes – in which unauthorized groups gain no information about the secret from their shares*Computationally-secure*schemes – in which participants learn some information about the secret, but the problem of actually finding it is intractable

## Shamir’s Secret Sharing Scheme

The algorithm was developed by Adi Shamir in 1979 and is based on polynomial interpolation. The central idea behind the scheme is that a polynomial of degree $ k-1 $ is uniquely determined by its values at $k$ points, while knowledge of at most $ k-1 $ point-value pairs gives no information about the polynomial coefficients. Put in an algorithmic/formal way, Shamir’s scheme goes like this:

Let $F$ be a finite field of size $p$ and $S$ be the secret. We assume without loss of generality that $S$ can be represented as an element of $F$. Let $k, n$ be natural numbers with $k \le n$, where $n$ represents the number of participants in the scheme - and the number of shares - and $k$ is the threshold value.

- Choose $k-1$ elements $a_1,a_2,…, a_{k-1}$ from $F$ and construct the polynomial $f(x)=a_0+a_1x+a_2x^2+…+a_{k-1}x^{k-1}$, where $a_0=S$.
- Compute the value of $f$ at $n$ distinct non-zero elements $x_1, x_2,…, x_n$ and distribute the shares $(x_i, f(x_i))$, $1 \le i \le n$ among the participants.
- $k$ participants can now reconstruct the secret by using polynomial interpolation. Such a scheme is called a $(k, n)$ threshold scheme.

The main idea of Shamir’s secret sharing scheme can be illustrated through Fig. 1.
(*Disclaimer*: I lied a bit here, as Shamir’s scheme deals with finite fields and not real numbers as in my figure down here. However,
the main concept can be more easily visualized and understood in $\mathbb{R}$)

## Blakley’s Secret Sharing Scheme

While Shamir’s scheme is based on polynomial interpolation, Blakley’s secret sharing algorithm relies on geometric properties of planes in a Euclidean space. In Blakley’s $(k, n)$ scheme, the secret is a point in a $k$-dimensional space and the shares are $n$ $(k - 1)$-dimensional hyper planes on which the secret lies. The secret can be recovered by finding the intersection of $k$ such planes.

Bibliography:

[1] Shamir A.: How to share a secret, Communications of the ACM 22.11 (1979): 612-613

[3] https://mortendahl.github.io/2017/06/04/secret-sharing-part1/

tags:*secret sharing*-

*Shamir's Secret Sharing Scheme*-

*Blakley’s Secret Sharing Scheme*