List four general characteristics of schema for the distribution of the public key. Explain the RSA algorithm and its security mechanisms.
Subject Computer and Network Security
NU Year Set: 2.(c) Marks: 2+5 Year: 2014

RSA derives its security from the difficulty of factoring large integers that are the product of two large prime numbers. Multiplying these two numbers is easy, but determining the original prime numbers from the total -- factoring -- is considered infeasible due to the time it would take even using today’s supercomputers.

As discussed, the security of RSA relies on the computational difficulty of factoring large integers. As computing power increases and more efficient factoring algorithms are discovered, the ability to factor larger and larger numbers also increases. Encryption strength is directly tied to key size, and doubling key length delivers an exponential increase in strength, although it does impair performance. RSA keys are typically 1024- or 2048-bits long, but experts believe that 1024-bit keys could be broken in the near future, which is why government and industry are moving to a minimum key length of 2048-bits. Barring an unforeseen breakthrough in quantum computing, it should be many years before longer keys are required, but elliptic curve cryptography is gaining favor with many security experts as an alternative to RSA for implementing public-key cryptography. It can create faster, smaller and more efficient cryptographic keys. Much of today’s hardware and software is ECC-ready and its popularity is likely to grow as it can deliver equivalent security with lower computing power and battery resource usage, making it more suitable for mobile apps than RSA. Finally, a team of researchers which included Adi Shamir, a co-inventor of RSA, has successfully determined a 4096-bit RSA key using acoustic cryptanalysis, however, any encryption algorithm is vulnerable to this type of attack.

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