On non-black-box simulation and the impossibility of approximate obfuscation

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The introduction of a non-black-box simulation technique by Barak (FOCS 2001) has been a major landmark in cryptography, breaking the previous barriers of black-box impossibility. Barak's technique has given rise to various powerful applications and is a key component in all known protocols with non-black-box simulation. We present the first non-black-box simulation technique that does not rely on Barak's technique (or on nonstandard assumptions). Invoking this technique, we obtain new and improved protocols resilient to various resetting attacks. These improvements include weaker computational assumptions and better round complexity. A prominent feature of our technique is its compatibility with rewinding techniques from classic black-box zero-knowledge protocols. The combination of rewinding with non-black-box simulation has proven instrumental in coping with challenging goals such as simultaneously resettable zero-knowledge, proofs of knowledge, and resettable security from one-way functions. While previous works required tailored modifications to Barak's technique, we give a general recipe for combining our technique with rewinding. This yields simplified resettable protocols in the above settings, as well as improvements in round complexity and required computational assumptions. The main ingredient in our technique is a new impossibility result for general program obfuscation. The results extend the impossibility result of Barak et al. (CRYPTO 2001) to the case of obfuscation with approximate functionality, thus settling a question left open by Barak et al. In the converse direction, we show a generic transformation from any resettably sound zero-knowledge protocol to a family of functions that cannot be obfuscated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1325-1383
Number of pages59
JournalSIAM Journal on Computing
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Non-black-box simulation
  • Obfuscation
  • Resettable security
  • Zero-knowledge


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