Elliptic Curve Cryptography: a gentle introduction

Andrea Corbellini

Those of you who know what public-key cryptography is may have already heard of ECC, ECDH or ECDSA. The first is an acronym for Elliptic Curve Cryptography, the others are names for algorithms based on it.

Today, we can find elliptic curves cryptosystems in TLS, PGP and SSH, which are just three of the main technologies on which the modern web and IT world are based. Not to mention Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Before ECC become popular, almost all public-key algorithms were based on RSA and DSA, alternative cryptosystems based on prime number factorization. RSA and friends are still very important today, and often are used alongside ECC. However, while the magic behind RSA and friends can be easily explained, is widely understood, and rough implementations can be written quite easily, the foundations of ECC are still a mystery to most.

With a series of…

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