This is a guest post and part of our ongoing Research Life series

I have just returned from my trip to Malaysia where I presented a paper titled “A New Improved Attack on RSA” at the 5th International Cryptology and Information Security Conference. This is a joint work with my mathematics PhD supervisor, Professor Martin Bunder.

The subject of my research, the RSA, is an encryption algorithm. When you type in “https” on the Internet address bar, the “s” stands for the word “secure” and your information travelling on the Internet is most likely being protected by the RSA. The RSA, as an encryption algorithm, turns your information into scrambled computer bits and bytes. Cryptographic algorithms like the RSA are the backbone for the security of our online world.

[cs_mg_imageshowcase_element effect=”bubba” overlay=”hsla(0, 0%, 27%, 0.78)” titlecol=”#ffffff” contentcol=”#ffffff” columns=”mg-one-col” gaps=”no-gap”][cs_mg_imageshowcase_element_item src=”http://www.uoweis.co/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/pic2.jpg” new_tab=”false”]From left to right, Prof. Amr M. Youssef (Concordia University, Canada), me, and Prof. Abderrahmane Nitaj (Universite de Caen, France)[/cs_mg_imageshowcase_element_item][/cs_mg_imageshowcase_element]

The security of the RSA is based on two keys. The longer the keys are, the better security they provide. However, longer keys make the algorithm run slower, that is why in systems with limited computing resources, it is desirable to have relatively short keys. So a crucial question that faces security experts is how much one can shorten the keys while still maintaining an acceptable level of security. My research tries to answer this question. We have specified a key threshold and designed a method that can recover the keys if the keys fall below this threshold. Our experiment shows that with a typical 1024-bit modulus security, our method can recover secret keys of up to 270 bits (i.e. around 82 decimal digits). Our method is a significant improvement of a previously well known method of Wiener which can recover keys of up to 255-bits.

[cs_mg_imageshowcase_element effect=”bubba” overlay=”hsla(0, 0%, 27%, 0.93)” titlecol=”#ffffff” contentcol=”#ffffff” columns=”mg-one-col” gaps=”no-gap”][cs_mg_imageshowcase_element_item src=”http://www.uoweis.co/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/pic1.jpg” new_tab=”false”]”The social event was wonderful. The conference venue is at Sabah and we had a lot of opportunities to take selfies with the highest mountain in Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu, on our trip to Kinabalu Park.”[/cs_mg_imageshowcase_element_item][/cs_mg_imageshowcase_element]

The paper was well received and I was glad to meet and discuss with other researchers who share common interests. There are two other papers at the conference on some variants of the RSA. My favourite talk is the one given by the keynote speaker, Professor Abderrahmane Nitaj, on post quantum cryptography. Professor Nitaj discussed the effect of quantum computers to cyber security. Crypto systems like the RSA are known to be breakable by a quantum computer. However, there are some other mathematical structures that can resist quantum computing. Professor Nitaj is one of my coauthors, of another paper and I will present this paper next July in Melbourne at the 21st Australasian Conference on Information Security and Privacy. It is a good opportunity to meet and discuss future research collaboration.