The science of cryptology

Going hand-in-hand with HPC, cryptology is appearing for the first time as an application topic at ISC. Michael Hortmann, professor of Computational Mathematics at the University of Bremen, explains

With the exchange of data via the internet becoming common-place, the use of cryptology to ensure the confidentially and authenticity of that data is of critical importance. There are always two key aspects to this: ensuring that unauthorised persons don’t have access to the data or communication and, most importantly, ensuring that the data cannot be altered in any way. Modern cryptographic algorithms can be attacked with better algorithms or simply with brute force, and by understanding the nature of these attacks and how to defend against them, we can protect our systems.

Within cryptology, there are two types of algorithms. The first is based on certain mathematical problems – RSA algorithms, for example, are based on factoring large numbers – and the second is a set of problems that come from discrete logarithms on elliptic curve. This is where high-performance computing comes in as supercomputers are necessary in order to solve these theoretical problems. Beyond this are block ciphers, which are used in the encryption of large amounts of data.

This year, the International Supercomputing Conference will provide the opportunity to discuss this topic in greater depth. The session on cryptology will consist of two talks; the first by me and the second by Ansgar Heuser, a former department head concerned with information security in a German government agency, who will present an historical view of cryptanalysis and computer architecture. During my talk, I will explain how these different types of algorithms work and how they can be attacked.

In the 1990s, people within the industry believed that if the cryptology was right, then the system would be secure. Unfortunately it turned out that a system’s security can be violated without breaking the cryptology, and once someone has broken into a machine they will have access to all the information it contains. Secure systems need to be supported by cryptology, but it’s not the only defence – which is another topic that my talk will cover. However, the important point I wish to get across is that cryptology is an empowering technology that can be used to protect communications and data in a way that cannot be achieved using any other method.



Wednesday, 19 June 2013

3.15pm - 4.15pm

Hall 2, CCL - Congress Center Leipzig

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