The Challenges of Bringing Cryptography from Research Papers to Products: Results from an Interview Study with Experts

Authors: 

Konstantin Fischer, Ruhr University Bochum; Ivana Trummov√°, Czech Technical University in Prague; Phillip Gajland, Ruhr University Bochum and Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy; Yasemin Acar, Paderborn University and The George Washington University; Sascha Fahl, CISPA - Helmholtz-Center for Information Security; Angela Sasse, Ruhr University Bochum

Abstract: 

Cryptography serves as the cornerstone of information security and privacy in modern society. While notable progress has been made in the implementation of cryptographic techniques, a substantial portion of research outputs in cryptography, which strive to offer robust security solutions, are either implemented inadequately or not at all. Our study aims to investigate the challenges involved in bringing cryptography innovations from papers to products.

To address this open question, we conducted 21 semistructured interviews with cryptography experts who possess extensive experience (10+ years) in academia, industry, and nonprofit and governmental organizations. We aimed to gain insights into their experiences with deploying cryptographic research outputs, their perspectives on the process of bringing cryptography to products, and the necessary changes within the cryptography ecosystem to facilitate faster, wider, and more secure adoption.

We identified several challenges including misunderstandings and miscommunication among stakeholders, unclear delineation of responsibilities, misaligned or conflicting incentives, and usability challenges when bringing cryptography from theoretical papers to end user products. Drawing upon our findings, we provide a set of recommendations for cryptography researchers and practitioners. We encourage better supporting cross-disciplinary engagement between cryptographers, standardization organizations, and software developers for increased cryptography adoption.

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