<*cryptography, algorithm*> A public-key cryptosystem for both
encryption and authentication, invented in 1977 by Ron
Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman. Its name comes from
their initials.

The RSA algorithm works as follows. Take two large prime numbers, p and q, and find their product n = pq; n is called the modulus. Choose a number, e, less than n and relatively prime to (p-1)(q-1), and find its reciprocal mod (p-1)(q-1), and call this d. Thus ed = 1 mod (p-1)(q-1); e and d are called the public and private exponents, respectively. The public key is the pair (n, e); the private key is d. The factors p and q must be kept secret, or destroyed. It is difficult (presumably) to obtain the private key d from the public key (n, e). If one could factor n into p and q, however, then one could obtain the private key d. Thus the entire security of RSA depends on the difficulty of factoring; an easy method for factoring products of large prime numbers would break RSA.

Last updated: 2004-07-14

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**Nearby terms:**
RS6K « RSA « RSA Data Security, Inc. « **RSA encryption** » RSCS » Réseaux Associés pour la Recherche Européenne » Réseaux IP Européens

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Copyright Denis Howe 1985