With an advance that one cryptography expert called a “masterpiece,” University of Texas at Austin computer scientists have developed a new method for producing truly random numbers, a breakthrough that could be used to encrypt data, make electronic voting more secure, conduct statistically significant polls and more accurately simulate complex systems such as Earth’s climate.
The new method creates truly random numbers with less computational effort than other methods, which could facilitate significantly higher levels of security for everything from consumer credit card transactions to military communications.
Computer science professor David Zuckerman and graduate student Eshan Chattopadhyay will present research about their method in June at the annual Symposium on Theory of Computing (STOC), the Association for Computing Machinery’s premier theoretical computer science conference. An invitation to present at the conference is based on a rigorous peer review process to evaluate the work’s correctness and significance. Their paper will be one of three receiving the STOC Best Paper Award.
“This is a problem I’ve come back to over and over again for more than 20 years,” says Zuckerman. “I’m thrilled to have solved it.”
Chattopadhyay and Zuckerman publicly released a draft paper describing their method for making random numbers in an online forum last year. In a field more accustomed to small, incremental improvements, the computer science community hailed the method, suggesting that, compared with earlier methods, this one is light years ahead. Oded Goldreich, a professor of computer science at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, commented that even if it had only been a moderate improvement over existing methods, it would have justified a “night-long party.”