Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

Going to war over prime numbers

Going to war over prime numbers

Revelations from the secret world of spying raise academic questions for both history and mathematics

Duncan Campbell

Twenty five years ago, saving the world from a nuclear holocaust might have depended on the ability or inability of mathematicians to factorise the products of very large prime numbers. But the fundamental theories needed, although secretly discovered by and known to mathematicians inside intelligence organisations at the time, were just not available even to bomb-makers. The world was less secure as a result.