Encrypted communications could have an undetectable backdoor
Researchers warn that many 1024-bit keys used to secure communications on the internet today might be based on prime numbers that have been intentionally backdoored in an undetectable way.
Many public-key cryptography algorithms that are used to secure web, email, VPN, SSH and other types of connections on the internet derive their strength from the mathematical complexity of discrete logarithms — computing discrete logarithms for groups of large prime numbers cannot be efficiently done using classical methods. This is what makes cracking strong encryption computationally impractical.
Most key-generation algorithms rely on prime parameters whose generation is supposed to be verifiably random. However, many parameters have been standardized and are being used in popular crypto algorithms like Diffie-Hellman and DSA without the seeds that were used to generate them ever being published. That makes it impossible to tell whether, for example, the primes were intentionally “backdoored” — selected to simplify the computation that would normally be required to crack the encryption.