Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press
"Lattices May Put Security Codes on a Firmer Footing," by Barry Cipra.Science, 23 August 1996, page 1047.
Computer security experts have developed techniques for protecting electroniccommunications through the use of cryptographic codes that are hard to crack.Unfortunately, these techniques offer no guarantees beyond the assumption thata would-be code-breaker would lack the necessary time and computing power. Isthere a way to provide some mathematical guarantee of the "hardness" ofcracking these codes? This article discusses the work of Miklos Ajtai, amathematician at IBM Almaden Research Center, who has come up with new ideathat does provides such a guarantee. His is a mathematical result, not anactual cryptographic device, so the practical implications of his work have yetto be worked out. However, some of the experimental results are encouraging.