Battle Against the NSA: RSA World’s Strongest Encryption

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NSA Director Keith Alexander speaking at the 2009 Cyberspace Symposium. Photo DoD/Dan Rohan

RSA is known as the best encryption against NSA breach(spying), but this new update shows that the NSA is now building a new Quantum computer to ‘decode’ even RSA encryption.

What is “RSA” encryption?

RSA is a cryptosystem, which is known as one of the first practicable public-key cryptosystems and is widely used for secure data transmission. In such a cryptosystem, the encryption key is public and differs from the decryption key which is kept secret.

In RSA, this asymmetry is based on the practical difficulty of factoring the product of two large prime numbers, the factoring problem. RSA stands for Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman, who first publicly described the algorithm in 1977. Clifford Cocks, an English mathematician, had developed an equivalent system in 1973, but it wasn’t declassified until 1997.

A user of RSA creates and then publishes the product of two large prime numbers, along with an auxiliary value, as their public key. The prime factors must be kept secret. Anyone can use the public key to encrypt a message, but with currently published methods, if the public key is large enough, only someone with knowledge of the prime factors can feasibly decode the message.Breaking RSA encryption is known as the RSA problem. It is an open question whether it is as hard as the factoring problem.

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