Software Protection and Simulation on Oblivious RAMs

Webpage for a paper by Oded Goldreich and Rafail Ostrovsky

This paper unifies and extends preliminary versions that appeared in STOC'87 and STOC'90 (authored by O.G. and R.O., respectively).


Software protection is one of the most important issues concerning computer practice. There exist many heuristics and ad-hoc methods for protection, but the problem as a whole has not received the theoretical treatment it deserves. In this paper we provide theoretical treatment of software protection. We reduce the problem of software protection to the problem of efficient simulation on oblivious RAM.

A machine is oblivious if the sequence in which it accesses memory locations is equivalent for any two inputs with the same running time. For example, an oblivious Turing Machine is one for which the movement of the heads on the tapes is identical for each computation. (Thus, the movement is independent of the actual input.) What is the slowdown in the running time of a machine, if it is required to be oblivious? In 1979 Pippenger and Fischer showed how a two-tape oblivious Turing Machine can simulate, on-line, a one-tape Turing Machine, with a logarithmic slowdown in the running time. We show an analogous result for the random-access machine (RAM) model of computation. In particular, we show how to do an on-line simulation of an arbitrary RAM by a probabilistic oblivious RAM with a poly-logarithmic slowdown in the running time. On the other hand, we show that a logarithmic slowdown is a lower bound.

Material available on-line

Version dated 1995.

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