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The Golden TicketP, NP, and the Search for the Impossible$
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Lance Fortnow

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691175782

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691175782.001.0001

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(p.123) Chapter 8 Secrets
The Golden Ticket

Lance Fortnow

Princeton University Press

This chapter analyzes how, in 1976, Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman suggested that one could use NP to hide one's own secrets. The field of cryptography, the study of secret messages, changed forever. Diffie and Hellman, building on earlier work of Roger Merkle, proposed a method to get around the problem of network security using what they called “public-key” cryptography. A computer would generate two keys, a public key and a private key. The computer would store the private key, never putting that key on the network. The public key would be sent over the network broadcast to everyone. Diffie and Hellman's idea was to develop a cryptosystem that used the public key for encrypting messages, turning the real message into a coded one. The public key would not be able to decrypt the message. Only the private key could decrypt the message.

Keywords:   Whitfield Diffie, Martin Hellman, cryptography, secret messages, network security, public-key cryptography, cryptosystem, encryption, decryption

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