Mathematics and Cryptography

Mike December 14, 20153 comments

The mathematics of number theory and elliptic curves can take a life time to learn because they are very deep subjects.  As engineers we don't have time to earn PhD's in math along with all the things we have to learn just to make communications systems work.  However, a little learning can go a long way to helping make our communications systems secure - we don't need to know everything. The following articles are broken down into two realms, number theory and elliptic...


Elliptic Curve Digital Signatures

Mike December 9, 2015

A digital signature is used to prove a message is connected to a specific sender.  The sender can not deny they sent that message once signed, and no one can modify the message and maintain the signature. The message itself is not necessarily secret. Certificates of authenticity, digital cash, and software distribution use digital signatures so recipients can verify they are getting what they paid for.

Since messages can be of any length and mathematical algorithms always use fixed...


Elliptic Curve Key Exchange

Mike December 3, 2015

Elliptic Curve Cryptography is used to create a Public Key system that allows two people (or computers) to exchange public data so that both sides know a secret that no one else can find in a reasonable time.  The simplest method uses a fixed public key for each person.  Once cracked, every message ever sent with that key is open.  More advanced key exchange systems have "perfect forward secrecy" which means that even if one message key is cracked, no other message will...


Polynomial Inverse

Mike November 23, 20152 comments

One of the important steps of computing point addition over elliptic curves is a division of two polynomials.  When working in $GF(2^n)$ we don't have large enough powers to actually do a division, so we compute the inverse of the denominator and then multiply.  This is usually done using Euclid's method, but if squaring and multiplying are fast we can take advantage of these operations and compute the multiplicative inverse in just a few steps.

The first time I ran across this...


One Clock Cycle Polynomial Math

Mike November 20, 201514 comments

Error correction codes and cryptographic computations are most easily performed working with $GF(2^n)$  polynomials.  By using very special values of $n$ we can build circuits which multiply and square in one clock cycle on an FPGA. These circuits come about by flipping back and forth between a standard polynomial basis and a normal basis representation of elements in $GF(2^n)$.

A normal basis is yet another form of polynomial but instead of adding powers of $\beta$ we add...


Elliptic Curve Cryptography

Mike November 16, 20156 comments

Secure online communications require encryption.  One standard is AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) from NIST.  But for this to work, both sides need the same key for encryption and decryption.  This is called Private Key encryption.  Public Key encryption is used to create a private key between two sides that have not previously communicated.  Compared to the history of encryption, Public Key methods are very recent having been started in the 1970's.  Elliptic...


Ten Little Algorithms, Part 5: Quadratic Extremum Interpolation and Chandrupatla's Method

Jason Sachs November 11, 20159 comments

Other articles in this series:

Today we will be drifting back into the topic of numerical methods, and look at an algorithm that takes in a series of discretely-sampled data points, and estimates the maximum value of...


Polynomial Math

Mike November 3, 20152 comments

Elliptic Curve Cryptography is used as a public key infrastructure to secure credit cards, phones and communications links. All these devices use either FPGA's or embedded microprocessors to compute the algorithms that make the mathematics work. While the math is not hard, it can be confusing the first time you see it.  This blog is an introduction to the operations of squaring and computing an inverse over a finite field which are used in computing Elliptic Curve arithmetic. ...


Number Theory for Codes

Mike October 22, 20156 comments

Everything in the digital world is encoded.  ASCII and Unicode are combinations of bits which have specific meanings to us.  If we try to interpret a compiled program as Unicode, the result is a lot of garbage (and beeps!)  To reduce errors in transmissions over radio links we use Error Correction Codes so that even when bits are lost we can recover the ASCII or Unicode original.  To prevent anyone from understanding a transmission we can encrypt the raw data...


Practical CRCs for Embedded Systems

Stephen Friederichs October 20, 20157 comments

CRCs are a very practical tool for embedded systems: you're likely to need to use one as part of a communications protocol or to verify the integrity of a program image before writing it to flash. But CRCs can be difficult to understand and tricky to implement. The first time I attempted to write CRC code from scratch I failed once. Then twice. Then three times. Eventually I gave up and used an existing library. I consider myself intelligent: I got A's...


Data Types for Control & DSP

Tim Wescott April 26, 20166 comments

There's a lot of information out there on what data types to use for digital signal processing, but there's also a lot of confusion, so the topic bears repeating.

I recently posted an entry on PID control. In that article I glossed over the data types used by showing "double" in all of my example code.  Numerically, this should work for most control problems, but it can be an extravagant use of processor resources.  There ought to be a better way to determine what precision you need...


Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part VI: Sing Along with the Berlekamp-Massey Algorithm

Jason Sachs October 18, 2017

The last two articles were on discrete logarithms in finite fields — in practical terms, how to take the state \( S \) of an LFSR and its characteristic polynomial \( p(x) \) and figure out how many shift steps are required to go from the state 000...001 to \( S \). If we consider \( S \) as a polynomial bit vector such that \( S = x^k \bmod p(x) \), then this is equivalent to the task of figuring out \( k \) from \( S \) and \( p(x) \).

This time we’re tackling something...


Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part XV: Error Detection and Correction

Jason Sachs June 12, 2018

Last time, we talked about Gold codes, a specially-constructed set of pseudorandom bit sequences (PRBS) with low mutual cross-correlation, which are used in many spread-spectrum communications systems, including the Global Positioning System.

This time we are wading into the field of error detection and correction, in particular CRCs and Hamming codes.

Ernie, You Have a Banana in Your Ear

I have had a really really tough time writing this article. I like the...


Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part XI: Pseudorandom Number Generation

Jason Sachs December 20, 2017

Last time we looked at the use of LFSRs in counters and position encoders.

This time we’re going to look at pseudorandom number generation, and why you may — or may not — want to use LFSRs for this purpose.

But first — an aside:

Science Fair 1983

When I was in fourth grade, my father bought a Timex/Sinclair 1000. This was one of several personal computers introduced in 1982, along with the Commodore 64. The...


Linear Regression with Evenly-Spaced Abscissae

Jason Sachs May 1, 20181 comment

What a boring title. I wish I could come up with something snazzier. One word I learned today is studentization, which is just the normalization of errors in a curve-fitting exercise by the sample standard deviation (e.g. point \( x_i \) is \( 0.3\hat{\sigma} \) from the best-fit linear curve, so \( \frac{x_i - \hat{x}_i}{\hat{\sigma}} = 0.3 \)) — Studentize me! would have been nice, but I couldn’t work it into the topic for today. Oh well.

I needed a little break from...


Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part VIII: Matrix Methods and State Recovery

Jason Sachs November 21, 2017

Last time we looked at a dsPIC implementation of LFSR updates. Now we’re going to go back to basics and look at some matrix methods, which is the third approach to represent LFSRs that I mentioned in Part I. And we’re going to explore the problem of converting from LFSR output to LFSR state.

Matrices: Beloved Historical Dregs

Elwyn Berlekamp’s 1966 paper Non-Binary BCH Encoding covers some work on


Mathematics and Cryptography

Mike December 14, 20153 comments

The mathematics of number theory and elliptic curves can take a life time to learn because they are very deep subjects.  As engineers we don't have time to earn PhD's in math along with all the things we have to learn just to make communications systems work.  However, a little learning can go a long way to helping make our communications systems secure - we don't need to know everything. The following articles are broken down into two realms, number theory and elliptic...


One Clock Cycle Polynomial Math

Mike November 20, 201514 comments

Error correction codes and cryptographic computations are most easily performed working with $GF(2^n)$  polynomials.  By using very special values of $n$ we can build circuits which multiply and square in one clock cycle on an FPGA. These circuits come about by flipping back and forth between a standard polynomial basis and a normal basis representation of elements in $GF(2^n)$.

A normal basis is yet another form of polynomial but instead of adding powers of $\beta$ we add...


Number Theory for Codes

Mike October 22, 20156 comments

Everything in the digital world is encoded.  ASCII and Unicode are combinations of bits which have specific meanings to us.  If we try to interpret a compiled program as Unicode, the result is a lot of garbage (and beeps!)  To reduce errors in transmissions over radio links we use Error Correction Codes so that even when bits are lost we can recover the ASCII or Unicode original.  To prevent anyone from understanding a transmission we can encrypt the raw data...


Elliptic Curve Key Exchange

Mike December 3, 2015

Elliptic Curve Cryptography is used to create a Public Key system that allows two people (or computers) to exchange public data so that both sides know a secret that no one else can find in a reasonable time.  The simplest method uses a fixed public key for each person.  Once cracked, every message ever sent with that key is open.  More advanced key exchange systems have "perfect forward secrecy" which means that even if one message key is cracked, no other message will...