Tag Archives: encryption

Robert Morris, Encryption and the Pony Express

[Image via NexGadet.com]

Robert Morris Sr. died June 26, 2011. I had the honor of meeting Mr. Morris in 1996 at a Dartmouth Workshop, where he gave an interesting and dynamic talk on transportable agents. He then took questions from the attendees. In my ignorance, I asked him:

“Aren’t you worried that the vast majority of common encryption schemes (SSL, RSA, etc) are based on prime factors of large numbers? If someone found an algorithm for this wouldn’t all common encryption be useless?”

Little did I realize that speculation has been rife for a long time that the NSA had in fact solved this long ago, either by math or vast amounts of hardware or a combination of both. As the former Chief Scientist of the NSA, Morris had obviously been asked the question before by people much smarter and with much more at stake than me. He could have easily brushed it off. Instead, with the infinite patience of parent, he carefully chose his answer. Continue reading Robert Morris, Encryption and the Pony Express