Last year, three mathematicians published a viable method for hiding the inner workings of software. The paper was a culmination of close to two decades of work by multiple teams around the world to show that concept could work. The quest now is to find a way to make indistinguishability obfuscation (iO) efficient enough to become a practical reality.
When it was first proposed, the value of iO was uncertain. Mathematicians had originally tried to find a way to implement a more intuitive form of obfuscation intended to prevent reverse engineering. If achievable, virtual black box (VBB) obfuscation would prevent a program from leaking any information other than the data it delivers from its outputs. Unfortunately, a seminal paper published in 2001 showed that it is impossible to guarantee VBB obfuscation for every possible type of program.