School of Computing

Feb 14
13:00 - 14:00
SEAL: sealed-bid auction without auctioneers
School of Computing - Security Group Seminar
Speaker: Prof Feng Hao, University of Warwick


A Vickrey auction is a second-price sealed-bid auction scheme, named after William Vickrey who first developed the theory for this scheme and won a Nobel prize in 1996. However, despite the extreme importance of the Vickrey scheme in the auction theory, it has rarely been used in practice. One key obstacle concerns the trustworthiness of the auctioneer. The auctioneer trivially learns all bid inputs which may contain commercial secrets. A dishonest auctioneer might secretly modify the bid price in order to increase the auction revenue without bidders noticing it. In this talk, we resolve this fundamental trust problem by designing a publicly verifiable e-auction scheme that completely removes the need for auctioneers. Our solution is called Self-Enforcing Auction Lot (SEAL). It does not require any secret channels between bidders; all communication is public and everyone including the third party observers can verify the integrity of the auction outcome; the system allows bidders to jointly compute the winning bid while preserving the privacy of losing bids, as well as effectively resolving any tie in the contest if it exists; it supports both first-price and second-price sealed-bid auctions; most importantly, it occurs only a linear computation and communication complexity with respect to the bit length of the bid price. All these make SEAL a practical solution to deploy in a real-world application, e.g., as a smart contract on a blockchain platform.


Feng Hao is a Professor of Security Engineering at the Department of Computer Science, University of Warwick. He received his PhD in 2007 in Computer Science from University of Cambridge. Being a security engineer, he has a mixture of industrial and academic experiences. Prior to starting his academic career, he worked in IT industry for 6 years. He joined Newcastle University as a lecturer in 2010, and became a Reader in 2014 and a Professor in 2018 before moving to his present position. With colleagues, he designed a few cryptographic protocols: AV-net, OV-net, J-PAKE, YAK, DRE-i and DRE-ip, some of which have been used in real-life applications. In particular, J-PAKE has been adopted as an industry standard for the IoT commissioning process (used in Google Nest, ARM mbed, NXP IoT Gateway, OpenThread, D-Link border router, Qualcomm thread processor, Texas Instruments SimpleLink) and internationally standardized in ISO/IEC 11770-4. His first paper during PhD on "combining crypto with biometrics effectively" (IEEE Trans. Computers 2006) is ranked the top in Google Classic papers in the category of "cryptography & computer security". His work on "self-enforcing e-voting" has led to a €1.5m ERC starting grant and an ERC proof-of-concept grant.


Cornwallis South West,
University of Kent,
United Kingdom


Open to everyone, especially those interested in cyber security research,


Contact: Jason R.C. Nurse

School of Computing, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

Enquiries: +44 (0)1227 824180 or contact us.

Last Updated: 14/08/2015