A Team Of Researchers Found A Flaw In One Of The Most Sophisticated Encryption Codes In The World


Photo: Travis Goodspeed via Flickr

That RSA device sitting on your desk? You might need to toss it.The New York Times’ John Markoff writes that a team of American and European researchers have discovered a crack in the RSA program, one of the most commonly used encryption algorithms in the world.

While the chink affects just two out of every thousand RSA sequences they looked at, the researchers fear that for dedicated hackers, the flaw may already be familiar.

RSA works using public-key encryption (“public” in this sense simply meaning “known”). In public-key encryption (which actually takes two keys), the public key can be used to encrypt information, while only the private key (the string of numbers on your RSA device) can be used to decrypt.

The RSA method of this system uses the product of two very large prime numbers and an auxiliary number as encryption keys.    

In theory, the keys are randomly chosen numbers that should be impossible to guess in tandem.

But using basic principles of factoring, the researchers found cases where they were able to derive the numbers. 

“The lack of sophistication of our methods and fi ndings make it hard for us to believe that what we have presented is new, in particular to agencies and parties that are known for their curiosity in such matters,” wrote the researchers in their findings.

[h/t New Scientist’s Jacob Aron]

NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos

Want to read a more in-depth view on the trends influencing Australian business and the global economy? BI / Research is designed to help executives and industry leaders understand the major challenges and opportunities for industry, technology, strategy and the economy in the future. Sign up for free at research.businessinsider.com.au.