Intelligence: April 4, 2002


Currently, 1024 bit RSA cryptography is considered uncrackable by any practical means. That is, until researchers showed how a specialized computing system could be built using existing components (at a cost of about a billion dollars), that could quickly decrypt 1024 bit RSA codes. With access to microchip design and manufacturing capabilities, specialized microprocessors could be built that would bring down the cost of the decryption system to under a hundred million dollars. This decryption technology (which no one is known to be building yet) could be defeated by moving to 2048 bit codes (which no one is doing yet either.) The government agencies that break codes (like the American NSA), are very secretive, and are generally believed to possess code breaking capabilities they would rather keep quiet (lest opponents increase the difficulty of their codes and make them unbreakable.) These organizations are also well funded. A billion dollars for a code breaking system would be affordable for the NSA and other major nations like China. The current use of 1024 bit codes has not changed because of this debate, although many cryptography experts have long felt that more powerful codes would eventually be needed. The current debate is not about if 1024 bit codes can easily be cracked, but when.




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