Global team cracks crypto challenge
September 29, 1999
by Stacy Collett
(IDG) -- An Irish mathematician and his team have cracked the seventh and toughest encryption problem as part of a challenge by Canadian firm Certicom Corp. to prove that one type of encryption is tougher to break than another.
The challenge involved 97-bit elliptic curve cryptography vs. 512-bit RSA (Rivest-Sharmir-Adleman), a more common encryption method.
The solution was discovered by 195 volunteers in 20 countries after 40 days of calculations on 740 computers, Irish mathematician Robert Harley said in a statement.
Solving the problem used approximately 16,000 MIPS-years of computing, twice as much as solving a 512-bit RSA problem, officials said. One MIPSyear is the computing power of one system that can crunch a million instructions per second running for a full year.
The team concluded that the elliptic curve encryption was tougher to crack, but debate continues within the security community on the issue.
Certicom launched a series of increasingly difficult cryptography problems in November 1997 with prizes worth up to $100,000. Andrew Odlyzko, head of mathematics and cryptography research at AT&T Labs said the test "demonstrates the need to keep increasing cryptographic key sizes to protect against growing threats."
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