27/02 - The Institut für Telematik (Institute for Telematics): For the time being, the security of the Internet is in no danger of a 'crackable' locking procedure

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27/02 - The Institut für Telematik (Institute for Telematics): "For the time being, the security of the Internet is in no danger of a 'crackable' locking procedure"

Trier. The application of longer keys and the development of new locking procedures continue to guarantee confidentiality of data exchange via Internet. This reassuring statement came from the Trier professor of information science, Christoph Meinel, in his response to a report published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. In this report, "chaos" was expected if a US mathematician, Daniel J. Bernstein, would manage to crack into the locked RSA system with his newly conceived computer. For 25 years, it has been the world's most important business principle of e-commerce and has been based on the fact that large numbers can only be divided into their prime factors with costly computing. Bernstein's announcement caused quite a fuss among experts.

"Even if the US mathematician has really managed to factorize, at equal cost, three times as large natural numbers than before, hackers and secret services would still not have a "digital general key" at hand," says Meinel. The director of the Trier autonomous Institute for Telematics (www.telematik-institut.org) also points out that cryptologists, i.e. ciphering experts, are also involved in a permanent race between the procedures and counter-procedures: "The RSA procedure has been helping us for 25 years. Now there are new efforts being made in order to develop new systems which will meet the requirements," says Meinel.

The head of the non-profit Internet research and development center, also points to the fact that the future quantum computers will challenge the present locking technique. Frankly, these computers and their high performance are still twinkle in the eye, says Meinel. As the second part of the double strategy to secure both corporate and private confidential communication via Internet, the Trier scientist recommends first of all to adjust to a longer key. According to the Professor, users are safe with 2048-digit numbers in computers as an adequate method of binary recording (2048 bit). At the moment, most data protected by the RSA technique is coded by means of 1024-bit keys. According to newspaper reports, even the government information security service in Bonn pleads for the use of the 2048-bit long key by the year 2006 at the latest.

The organizational structure and orientation of this registered extra-university and non-profit association make the Institute for Telematics the only one of its kind in Germany. After the first four years of hard work, the Institute can boast of great achievements: Two patents, four graduations and more than 80 expert presentations at international conferences. The team of some 50 staff members, headed by the Professor Christoph Meinel (48), is developing user-friendly and practical high-tech solutions. M-commerce, Internet/Intranet, open network data communication security, telemedicine, electronic publishing, system designs and analysis are the present fields of activity of this Trier-based, yet internationally renowned top institute.