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Public Lecture

A public lecture will be given by Prof. Scott Vanstone on Sunday, August 23, 2009 at 3:00 PM in ICT 102.  The title of the lecture will be "A Mathematicians Journey into the Business World: The Story of Elliptic Curve Cryptography". 


This lecture tells the story of elliptic curve cryptography (ECC) as I know it and the history of a security technology company, Certicom, which we started 25 years ago. ECC is rapidly expanding around the world as the method of choice for implementing encryption, key management, authentication and digital signatures. In the 90s, ECC was positioned as a rival to the public-key scheme known as RSA.RSA was widely deployed and well known to the security user community. To take on the incumbent was a monumental task. It was clear to me that if the underlying hard problem on which ECC bases its security is truly hard then ECC was technologically superior to any public-key scheme known, which of course meant RSA. ECC heavily depends on the wonderful theory of elliptic curves developed over the past 150 years. As is well known, elliptic curves played a fundamental role in the solution of Fermat’s Last Theorem. They are now playing a huge role in securing information on the Internet, consumer electronics devices and postal applications to mention a few.

It is the intention of this lecture to give the audience a basic but non-mathematical understanding of the technology. Furthermore, we will discuss the development, deployment and adoption of ECC and how Certicom has played a major role.  The National Security Agency (NSA) in the U.S.A has adopted ECC as the public-key technology they want to use going forward. We will address the significance of this event.