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Front page of the Free Press: "How math protects people from information theft"

Release Date: 03-28-2008

Author: Tim Johnson

[The following is reprinted with permission from the Burlington Free Press.]

Dr. John
Voight

Dr. John Voight

Encryption masks or "protects" the identities of millions of people who engage in commercial transactions every day. Never mind all the intergovernmental, military and intelligence communications that are also encrypted. Virtually unfathomable codes enshroud -- or are supposed to enshroud -- all sorts of mundane personal details like Social Security numbers or bank account numbers that are transmitted all over.

John Voight, assistant professor of mathematics in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS), will be teaching a course on encryption in the fall. His students might not be whizzes, but they'll have to know some math. They'll learn that there are lots of encryption methods. Many are known by their acronyms. DES (Data Encryption Standard) was a popular method in the 1970s, but as computers grew more powerful, it became easier to crack. One key technique involves the use of extremely large prime numbers.

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