One of the fundamental principles of the UK Data Protection Act states that: Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data. Article 17 of EU Directive 95/46/EC 1995 enforces similar requirements for the security of personal data. In today s internet world where organisations are using email to deliver information, what technology is available to ensure that we comply with the law ? RSA Encryption - the security invention which makes the internet work commercially Every time you use a credit card you are depending on RSA Encryption to protect you. Its interesting that such a pervasive and critical technology is so little known. RSA was developed in the 1970 s by three American mathematicians and is today the basis of all financial transactions on the internet. This is due to its unique ability to encrypt a file specifically for another person to open. Its interesting to note that a British mathematician discovered it first but never published it. RSA is unique. All other encryption systems use the same key to encrypt as to decrypt, just like a normal lock and key. RSA splits the key into two, an En-cryption key (the public key because who cares what you En-crypt) and a De-cryption key (private key). Anyone can En-crypt a file for you (using your public key) but only you can De-crypt it (using your private key). It is accepted by mathematicians that provided a large key length is used, RSA is impossible to crack. The basis of this lies in number theory and has to do with the extreme difficulty of factoring large numbers.
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