20040907

"Maths holy grail could bring disaster for internet"

Sensational journalism really gets to me sometimes. The article Maths holy grail could bring disaster for internet is a prime ;) example.

The piece of news is that 2 big maths problems might have been solved. And almost every other media agency has taken that slant. But this headline is pure sensationalism, based on a grain of fact, that understanding why primes are primes will pull the rug from under strong encryption.


  • On the one hand, Tim might be right.
    Assuming that, armed with intimate knowledge of prime numbers, someone can devise a way to crack any strong encryption quickly and efficiently. And then that technique falls into the wrong hands, and becomes widely used.
    What you get is the internet a few years ago again, where there is no https in general use and 'man in the middle' attacks are impossible to detect or protect against.

  • But more likely is that the maths does give you that first step to understanding primes. But instead of opening the flood gates it only gives the number one step of many insights required to provide instant cracking.



Security is not just about encryption. Excryption is a technology that enables many features of internet security systems. Take away that technology and you still have some security, but you need to plug the holes with solutions based on other technologies. While this might be really inconvenient it is not impossible.

So if you have any ideas kicking round your head that provide security without encryption then now is the time to file the patent. But I wouldn't bother building them yet.

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