The RSA public-key cryptosystem


We give an overview of the invention in 1977 of the RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) public-key cryptosystem, based on the difficulty of factoring the product of two large randomly-chosen prime numbers, and follow with a discussion of the commercialization and standardization of this cryptosystem. We end with some speculation about the future of public-key cryptography.


Professor Ronald Rivest teaches and does research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a member of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and a leader of that lab’s Cryptography and Information Security group. He is a co-author of the popular textbook “Introduction to Algorithms” (MIT Press). His current research spans election integrity, covid exposure notification by smartphones, secure DNA synthesis, and cryptographic policy. He was awarded (along with Adi Shamir and Len Adleman) the 2002 ACM Turing Award.

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