Rethinking Encryption

With researchers cracking supposed unassailable encryption algorithms, it’s back to the drawing board.

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With security experts working around the clock to beat the hackers, because the hackers are doing the very same thing to beat the security experts, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that researchers at European university EPFL have cracked a so-called “unassailable encryption algorithm” in just two hours.

It turns out, a protocol based on allegedly tamper-proof “discrete logarithms,” which has been a contender for the Internet’s future security systems, was decrypted by EPFL researchers and could only stand up to the school machines’ decryption attempts for two hours.

They reminded that without cryptography, no one would dare to type their credit card number on the Internet and that security systems developed to protect the communication privacy between the seller and the buyer are the prime targets for hackers of all kinds, which makes it necessary for encryption algorithms to be regularly strengthened.

In the academic realm, research focused on hacking looks mostly at testing robustness of the encryption algorithms, most of which rely on “discrete logarithm problems” to secure data transmissions.

While there are several variants of this, their complexity is such that they are deemed impossible to solve, and because of this effectiveness, the industry — especially banks — makes use of them for encoding transactions.

However, there is a danger looming in that these systems are based on principles that are not fully understood, and if someone were to figure out how to solve them all, the entire system would collapse.

Not to worry, EPFL has not deployed it’s system, but rather, wanted to make sure this type of particular discrete logarithm will not be included in the search for a successor to current algorithms.

So it’s back to the drawing board in this particular space, and it leads one to wonder where else the holes are being found in today’s encryption algorithms.