[ISN] Prime numbers guru 'factors' down success

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Mon Jan 20 2003 - 00:55:04 PST

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    Forwarded from: William Knowles <wkat_private>
    JANUARY 18, 2003
    PUNE: Computer scientist Manindra Agrawal, who hit global headlines 
    last year by unravelling a long-standing mystery of prime numbers, 
    does not plan to patent his method.
    The problem of conclusively identifying enormous prime numbers 
    (hundreds of digits long) had baffled mathematicians across centuries 
    until the Kanpur-based IIT-ian and two of his undergraduate students - 
    Neeraj Kayal and Nitin Saxena - developed a simple method of cracking 
    Prime numbers (such as 1, 5, 11, 37...) are divisible only by 
    themselves or 1. While smaller prime numbers are easy to make out, for 
    very large numbers, there never had been a formula for "primality 
    testing" until August 2002.
    "I'm not keen on restricting mathematicians and other people from 
    using this method," says Agrawal,who will soon be leaving for a 
    year-long stint at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, 
    New Jersey.
    Felicitated for his mathematical breakthrough by Tata Consultancy 
    Services here on Friday afternoon, Agrawal delivered a lecture on the 
    subject. The primality formula opened up new vistas to decode Internet 
    encryption, besides offering a new ray of hope to other problems in 
    "What we've so far achieved is a foolproof method of identifying large 
    prime numbers," he said, adding that the factoring problem is yet to 
    be solved. "So why not allow people to work on this technique and 
    unravel the further problem," he asked, while explaining the reason 
    for not opting for a patent.
    While Agrawal's discovery has fascinated people,who have gone to the 
    extent of heralding an end to the use of the Internet, Agrawal humbly 
    accepts it is presently of little or no commercial value. 
    "The algorithm we discovered will not set new world records because of 
    its innate lack of speed," he admits. A 100-digit number takes at 
    least a year to determine its primality, he adds.
    "All those reports are misleading and inconsequential now," he said, 
    adding that the race is, however, on to arrive at new approaches to 
    primality testing. "We hope to achieve some results at the end of two 
    Does the discovery hold any relevance to cryptography? "No, not at the 
    moment. Again because our algorithm is not fast enough for practical 
    applications," he said. Presently, information security on the 
    Internet is based on the difficulty of factoring an enormous number. 
    "For anybody to decrypt such a number, one has to figure out the two 
    prime numbers (factors) used, which are 250 digits each, or more 
    long," he said. "Besides, factoring is the key to many other 
    mathematical problems too."
    "Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
    without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
    C4I.org - Computer Security, & Intelligence - http://www.c4i.org
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