It may not have made the evening news, but computer scientists all over the world are raising their glasses to celebrate a new breakthrough in cyber security. Computer science professor David Zuckerman has developed a way of creating truly random number sequences. In simple terms his method works by taking 2 weakly random sequences of numbers and turns them into a single sequence of numbers that are truly random. In the world of encryption and cybersecurity, this breakthrough could be the start of a whole new level of defence against cyber-attacks.
What Is A Random Number?
By definition, a random number is ‘a number generated by process, whose outcome is unpredictable and which cannot be subsequently reproduced’. At the moment there are 2 main ways of generating random numbers, both of which require a computer programme. In the first method a computer will select numbers from a pre-generated list of strings, which can be discovered with some clever hacking. The second involves using complex algorithms to automatically create a long series of numbers. The problem with these methods is that they both fall short of the ‘true randomness’ mark. Algorithms and pre-generated strings will eventually repeat sequences of numbers, making it easier to decipher, and because computers will follow their programming blindly it is difficult to change this. Zuckerman’s sequence is revolutionary because it starts with sequences of random numbers that are generated weakly, for example stock market prices sampled over time. These numbers in themselves are highly predictable, so won’t be any use for secure encryption. But by sequencing them together in his own way, Zuckerman has managed to create a way of generating truly random numbers that never repeat and aren’t tied to a pattern or computer generation.
Why are Random Numbers Important?
Random number generation is one of the fundamental pillars of encryption, the process that helps us to conceal messages and prevent people from accessing our confidential information. Without encryption we could not send highly sensitive or confidential information without it being available to read to everyone along the way, including criminals and hackers. One of the most common forms of encryption used today is the RSA algorithm. This method requires the factoring of large integers from 2 prime numbers to produce 3 mathematically linked keys, one public and one private. Both of these keys are needed in order to decrypt the message. The private key is always kept secret, and needs to be generated from a source of random numbers to keep the message safe and secure. The problem is that these algorithms can repeat themselves, making it easier for hackers to predict the patterns and decrypt the key. Zuckerman’s new method uses 2 sequences that are only weakly random that is not computationally demanding in order to discover a number that is almost perfectly random. This method is light years ahead of the current means of generating random numbers and could completely change the landscape of secure encryption.
While the breakthrough may have originated in Texas, the effect it will have on the UK market is staggering. Since this article on GoodUKNews was written about the need to keep the UK safe from cyber-attacks, 90% of UK organisations are still reporting security breaches, with online banking fraud increasing by 48% in a single year, and the cyber-attack rate on businesses rising by a staggering 114%. These increased attacks have had a huge impact on the UK business market and have created a need for more secure encryption protocols. If you want to read more about the effect cyber-attack have on UK companies, this whitepaper by Oxford Economics makes a great read. For more information about cyber security and how encryption could protect your business, just click here.
Article provided by Rose-Marie Littleford – Leapfrog Internet Marketing