Curvy Security

To keep messages secure, the computers that run wireless networks must do some complicated math to authenticate every Internet-enabled cell phone or wireless personal digital assistant that contacts them, and the devices must do the reverse, which can tax their batteries. Sun Microsystems senior staff engineer Hans Eberle and his team at Sun Labs are addressing that problem by creating a microprocessor that can be plugged into network computers to quickly authenticate messages from a range of wireless gadgets. The numerical “keys” used to authenticate most electronic messages today are generated by multiplying prime numbers; but to foil hackers, these numbers must be very large, containing up to 1,024 digital bits. Eberle uses a technique called elliptic-curve cryptography that instead derives keys from complex geometrical curves. The complexity of the curves makes the keys more difficult to break, so the same level of security can be achieved with smaller keys that require less computation to use. Eberle’s chips can establish secure connections at the rate of 7,000 per second-the “fastest reported,” he says. Sun’s product groups are evaluating the microprocessors for inclusion in the firm’s server computers.

Other Prototypes:
Videoconferencing by the Numbers

Identity Antitheft

This story is part of our November 2003 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Digital Doorman

Heart Helper

Cell-Free Proteins

E-Paper Printer

Programmable Window

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from undefined

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

You've read of free articles this month.