Security

Prime Number Magic

Math is central to our daily lives. This is a fact, whether you love it, hate it, or don’t even understand it in the first place.

Numbers are weird objects; and I’m particularly fascinated by prime numbers.  A prime number is only divisible by itself and 1. Another mysterious fact is that every even number is the sum of two primes. Today I’ll talk about an algorithm, as an example of how math is crucial to our online security.

As a mathematician I love algorithms; instructions that solve problems. Algorithms are ancient. As much as I’d talk about technology, they are not exclusive to the world of technology. The first algorithm was to find the Greatest Common Divisor(G.C.D) of a number. One modern algorithm you may have heard of is the Pagerank algorithm by Larry Page and Sergey. If you’ve not heard of it, then you’ve used it. This is the algorithm used to rank web pages by Google, the world’s leading search engine. Creating algorithms requires a lot of creativity and genius. It’s no surprise only a few come up with world-changing and award-winning algorithms.

Now, back to prime numbers. E-commerce and the internet wouldn’t be safe without these special numbers.

Banks, websites and other systems use the RSA public-key encryption algorithm to keep our internet secrets. RSA are the initials of the people that came up with the algorithm; Rivet, Shamir, Adleman.

RSA encryption is achieved by producing a public key and a private key. The public key is two massive primes multiplied together. The public key is available for anyone to use.  If you want to decode the secret key, you need to know the original prime numbers. The only way to do this would be to take that massive number and factorize it. This is impractical with current technology. And this is how prime numbers uniquely secure our information.

This is just an example of the many ways math impacts our lives and an application of prime numbers. If you love cryptography and code cracking don’t go far as more is coming. Let’s talk tech!

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