Feeds

Maths boffins topple Certicom crypto

Not a small task

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

What do you get if you cross 109-bit elliptical curve cryptography with a very determined mathematician? If you have 2600 computers and 17 months and few more maths wizards to throw into the mix, you get a cracked key.

Chris Monico, an assistant professor at Texas Tech university, and his team have solved the Certicom Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC)2-109 Challenge. There are three reasons that this is good news: firstly, the algorithm is still sound, as Monico explains below. Secondly the CPU power it took to break the key is equivalent to an Athlon XP 3200+ working nonstop for about 1200 years. Lastly, commercial grade crypto uses 163-bit keys. To solve one of those is around one hundred million times harder.

Monico told El Reg: "We used a collision-based version of the well-known Pollard-rho algorithm. While this is much better than brute-force, which would have required about 4.5 quadrillion times as much work, it is still exponential - every two bits added to the keysize make the attack take twice as long."

The same team also solved the ECCp-109 challenge in 2002. In this contest, the key was the same length, but was solved over a field of characteristic 2 rather than a prime field. As well as the professional acknowledgement, Monico and his team win $10,000 for cracking the key.

But money is not the prime motivator. "I think public-key cryptography based on ECC is what we should and will be moving toward," Monico argued. "And besides, the fact that this is likely the last of the ECC challenges to be solved in the next few years was a big motivator. The only way to get at the 130-bit level challenges are by a combination of Moore's Law (wait around for computers to get faster) and gathering more computers. Personally, I think it's unlikely to happen soon."

The Certicom challenge was first issued in 1997, and has three levels, starting with some more basic crypto exersizes. This solution, impressive as it is, is just the first part of Level I. Level I also includes 131-bit challenges; and Level II involves 163-bit, 191-bit and 359-bit challenges. The 131-bit challenges are 2000 times more difficult than the 109 bit challenges, and the level II challenges are considered computationally unfeasible. Bring on the quantum processors... ®

Related stories

109-bit Elliptic Curve Cryptography knocked over with brute force
IT security to become political battleground
Cable modem hackers conquer the co-ax
Crypto booster tech for mobile phones

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
Why did it take antivirus giants YEARS to drill into super-scary Regin? Symantec responds...
FYI this isn't just going to target Windows, Linux and OS X fans
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
Home Office: Fancy flogging us some SECRET SPY GEAR?
If you do, tell NOBODY what it's for or how it works
Astro-boffins start opening universe simulation data
Got a supercomputer? Want to simulate a universe? Here you go
prev story

Whitepapers

10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity
IT teams can automatically detect problems across the IT environment, spot data theft, select unique pieces of transaction payloads to send to a data source, and more.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.