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Thirty year old encryption is still uncrackable

Can withstand a quantum attack, in theory
Thu Aug 19 2010, 13:34

THE OLD METHODS are the best has once again been proven true, with a 32-year-old encryption algorithm having been shown to be able to withstand posited quantum cryptography attacks.

In recent years the world of cryptography has been shuddering at the thought that once quantum computers reach even a fraction of their computational capabilities, present encryption techniques will be rendered useless. Not so, say researchers from the University of Connecticut, who claim to have mathematically proven that an encryption algorithm dating from 1978 can withstand all known quantum cryptography attacks.

While quantum computers could quite easily crack widely used encryption schemes such as RSA, the researchers have shown that Robert McEliece's algorithm, by using a mathematical conundrum known as the hidden super group, cannot be cracked using quantum fourier analysis.

The technique was the first widely known quantum cracking technique proposed in 1994 and if and when implemented by quantum computers will essentially render most, but apparently not all, encryption methods useless.

So what exactly uses a 30-year-old piece of software these days? Apparently a file sharing system called Entropy. Apparently that system never really got off the ground due to the size of the keys that need to be transferred. These revelations are likely to result in McEliece's masterpiece receiving a lot more attention and improving its viability in the real world.

It should be noted that the researchers categorically state that while McEliece's algorithm cannot be cracked by current quantum cryptography attacks, they are not taking any bets on whether it can withstand attacks dreamt up in the future.

Nonetheless, few will deny that McEliece's encryption work has stood the test of time better than most. µ


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