Brain-Like Computers Moving Closer to Cracking Codes

A new discovery has been made by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory scientists about brain-like computer architectures for an age-old number-theoretic problem known as integer factorization.

This takes away the traditional computing architectures and embracing devices that are able to operate within extreme size-, weight-, and power-constrained environments. These devices can process information and solve computationally-hard problems quicker.

Simply the problem can be sated as: take a composite integer N and express it as the product of its prime components. For example, 100 can be 10×10 or 5x5x4.  What many didn’t realize is they were performing a task that if completed quickly enough for large numbers, could break much of the modern day internet.

The security of the RSA algorithm relies on the difficulty of factoring a large composite integer N, the public key, which is distributed by the receiver to anyone who wants to send an encrypted message. If N can be factored into its prime components, then the private key, can be recovered. However, the difficulty in factoring large integers quickly becomes apparent. This difficulty underlies the security of the RSA algorithm.

The scientists demonstrated how brain-like computers lend a speedup to the currently best known algorithms for factoring integers. So they devised a way to factor large composite integers by harnessing the massive parallelism of novel computer architectures that mimic the functioning of the mammalian brain.

As emerging devices shift to integrate massive parallelism and harness material physics to computer, the computational hardness underlying some security protocols may still be challenged. This study opens the door to new research areas of emerging computer architectures, in terms of algorithm design and function representation, alongside low-power machine learning and artificial intelligence applications.



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