Overheard: Word of the Day

Oct 3 2008   1:11PM GMT

Overheard: The bigger the prime number, the more secure the encryption

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

nuno_morgadinho.jpg Mathematicians at UCLA have discovered a 13 million-digit prime number, a long-sought milestone that makes them eligible for a $100,000 prize given out by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The group found the 46th known Mersenne prime last month on a network of 75 computers running Windows XP. The number was then verified by a different computer system.

Nuno Morgadinho, New Prime Number Discovered

What’s the big deal about finding very large prime numbers? Encryption.

RSA encryption is based on prime numbers — two prime numbers multiplied together. The original two prime numbers are known as your ‘private key’.  When you multiply them together, the product (a number that’s only divisible by one, itself and those two prime numbers) is called the ‘public key’.

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