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Cryptography teaches you the most unexpected things

Exponentiels still don't help us visualize big numbers

I am currently reading a book called “Serious Cryptography” by Jean-Philippe Aumasson. This book is great, even for people who don’t consider themselves “math types” . It makes cryptography seem a bit like a CSI episode, i.e scientists trying to solve crime. You feel a bit like a detective playing cops and robbers with the hackers. The two main weapons of a cryptographer are very big numbers and prime numbers. Even if you know that, you are still surprised by the power of big numbers. For example, JP Aumasson writes:

“At a high level, 128-bit security means that you’d need to carry out approximately 2^128 operations to break that crypto system. To give you a sense of what this number means, consider the fact that the universe is approximately 2^88 nanoseconds old (there’s a billion nanoseconds in a second). Since testing a key with today’s technology takes no less than a nanosecond, you’d need several times the age of the universe for an attack to succeed (2^40 times to be precise) if it takes exactly one nanosecond to test a key.

These numbers are mind blowing. The universe is only 2^88 nanoseconds old.? 2^88 nanoseconds equals about 14 bio years. Humans can’t visualize big numbers.

Listen to a podcast with JP Aumasson here, and you will see how interesting he is.

Listen to an interview with JP Aumasson here

Aumasson, Jean-Philippe. Serious Cryptography (p. 45). No Starch Press. Kindle Edition.



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