Cringely Gives KnowNow Some Unbelievable Free Press...

James Hong
Sun, 20 Jan 2002 07:28:25 -0800

hey, how come nobody else got to chip money in? :)


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How HOT are you?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Robert Harley" <>
To: <>
Sent: Sunday, January 20, 2002 7:14 AM
Subject: Re: Cringely Gives KnowNow Some Unbelievable Free Press...

> Just got some pretty excellent free press ourselves in the Sunday Tribune,
> one of Ireland's major Sunday newspapers.
> Full page article below... Cringely mentioned within, Khare and Rifkin
> Scans with ObMugShot at:
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Irishman cracks curves
> Dubliner Robert Harley has pioneered an important new method of encryption
>  AN Irish researcher working at the cutting edge of cryptography has
> invented a crucial new mathematical basis for encryption, the encoding
> of computer information. and has established a Paris-based company to
> exploit his findings. The new technology could form the basis for a
> whole new generation of encryption products to replace the
> increasingly compromised mathematical basis of Public Key
> Infrastructure (PKI) security.
>  Dubliner Robert Harley, 31, made his discovery while working on the
> complex elliptical curve cryptography process and established ArgoTech
> to provide software and consulting using elliptical cryptography.
> In the past 10 years there has been a year-on-year fall in the price
> of computers, coupled with exponential growth in those computers'
> power.  There has been a corresponding decrease in the safety of
> encryption systems because the power has become readily available to
> crack systems.
> Traditional encryption has, despite the protestations of researchers
> and vendors, become less and less safe. While five years ago, 512-bit
> encryption was enough to guarantee security, such has been the
> progress of breaking that cryptography that 1024-bit encryption is now
> the standard form used.
> Never has encryption been as important as it is now. Every part of our
> lives, from, business to government to banking to our social lives, is
> now based at least in part on digital systems which must be secure in
> order to function. If encryption fails, the consequences will be
> devastating. And traditional cryptography is failing, slowly but
> definitely according to Harley.
> "Gradually over the past 25 years there has been progress in breaking
> RSA systems as better and better algorithms are found," he said.
>  The basis of the most common form of (public key infrastructure)
> cryptography, is the RSA system developed by RSA Security. At the
> heart of the system is a complex mathematical problem involving the
> factoring of numbers that keeps data locked by all but the holder of
> the solution to that problem (the key).
> Elliptical key cryptography, the area of Harley's research, proposes
> maintaining the PKI structure but replacing the central mathematical
> problem with a new one that is more difficult to solve.
> "People have known about elliptical cryptography since the 1970s,"
> explained Harley. But while RSA remained unbroken, there was no need
> to pursue the elliptical curve method, which had its own problems.
> Elliptical curve cryptography uses a mathematical curve instead of a
> factoring problem as its core mathematical problem. The trouble is
> that it has required a lot of time and computing power to create new
> curves with which to encode messages. For the problem to be useful in
> commercial cryptography, the curve needs to be generated almost
> instantly.
> "Users don't want to wait around for ages for their encryption, and
> sometimes they are using very low power devices like mobile phones,"
> said Harley.
> Then, in 1999, a Japanese academic, Professor Takakazu Satoh, found a
> way of producing curves more quickly. "It was very theoretical, so
> with a team from the Ecole Polytechnique(in Paris), I took the
> algorithm and extended it to practical cases and showed how it could
> work in practice."
> Then, a year ago, Harley went even further. He invented a whole new
> algorithm that further speeded up the creation of secure curves, "With
> Professor Jean-François Mestre [of the University of Paris], I
> developed a faster algorithm which we called the AGM
> (Arithmetic-Geometric Mean) algorithm."
> That algorithm now lies at the heart of the company that Harley has
> established in Paris. Having cut its teeth in providing consulting and
> services, ArgoTech is now moving into the business of providing its
> technology to software companies to incorporate into their own
> software.
> "We did consulting but that becomes frustrating. You do all the work
> and you only get paid once. So we are now looking at software deals,"
> said Harley. "In any piece of software there is lots of code, but only
> a small bit of that is the core code that is the software's
> functionality. That's what we can provide."
> ArgoTech has a deal with MailWatcher, a data security software firm
> that is developing a module that will become a part of the widely used
> Lotus Notes platform. Argotech's software will be at the heart of the
> MailWatcher software, which in turn will be an option for users of
> Lotus Notes. Air France will use the software to encrypt internal
> communications among its 400 sites, said Harley.
> ArgoTech is also in preliminary discussions with Baltimore
> Technologies about licensing the elliptic curve technology for use in
> Baltimore's encryption products.
> The company was founded October 2000 and has secured seed funding from
> Rohit Khare and Adam Rifkin, California-based technology entrepreneurs
> who founded the internet data sharing company, KnowNow.
> Harley's discovery is rooted in a background in high-level research
> into elliptical cryptography. A Dubliner, he studied at Edinburgh
> University before conducting graduate research at Paris' Ecole
> Polytechnique and the California Institute of Technology. He is
> currently completing his PhD at INRIA (Institut National de Recherche
> en Informatique et en Automatique).
> Harley found fame, in the world of cryptography at least, when he led
> a team that won a competition run by Canadian cryptography company
> Certicom. The competition was to break elliptical curve cryptography
> and Harley's team won after four months of number-crunching on 9500
> computers belonging to 1300 volunteers. When Certicom reran the
> competition with a more complex version of the problem, Harley won
> again.
> His exploits did not go unnoticed. IT guru Robert Cringely in his
> influential column, The Pulpit, referred to Harley as "an Irish genius
> at INRIA" adding that "Harley knows as much about this technology as
> anyone in the world".
> ArgoTech is in the very early stages of commercialisation on the
> technology and the company has only recently changed focus from
> consulting to licensing. But the earning potential of the technology
> is enormous. If the firm manages to protect its intellectual property,
> and if businesses begin to switch from elliptical curve encryption,
> ArgoTech could be licensing its technology for use in encryption
> software over the world. Harley could well be the man at the centre of
> the next wave of cryptography technology.
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> L8r,
>   Rob.
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