ECC Patent: Everything You Need to Know

MQV and other ECC patent examples from the software company Certicom have been licensed by the National Security Agency (NSA) in a deal valued at $25 million.3 min read

MQV and other ECC patent examples from the software company Certicom have been licensed by the National Security Agency (NSA) in a deal valued at $25 million.

Elliptic curve cryptography (ECC), a type of cryptography used to secure information online, is useful in a variety of applications:

  • The United States government uses it to protect its internal communications.
  • The Tor Project is using it to help guarantee anonymity.
  • It is used to verify who owns bitcoins.
  • Apple's iMessage service uses ECC to provide signatures.
  • It's used to make sure web browsing is secure.
  • It's used for DNSCurve.

However, this technology has not been accepted universally. There is uncertainty about patent-related issues surrounding ECC. For example, an ECC patch was submitted to the OpenSSL team in 2002 but was only accepted in 2005.

Lawsuits Related to Cryptography

In May 2007, Certicom filed a lawsuit against Sony claiming Sony had violated Certicom's patents with regard to the specific method of cryptography used. Later, in 2009, the court dismissed the lawsuit.

CryptoPeak Solutions LLC is suing more than 70 major companies that have allegedly infringed on U.S. patent laws related to cryptosystems. CryptoPeak Solutions LLC claims that any website delivering secure HTTP content with ECC digital certificates is in violation of its patent. However, a variety of legal and technical experts have labeled this action “patent trolling.”

Increasing Reliance on Encryption

Since Edward Snowden brought government-run global surveillance programs to light, encryption has become increasingly more important. Today, online services and technology companies are using encryption to:

  • Protect data sent by a user to a domain.
  • Protect data received by a user from a domain.
  • Reduce the danger of hacking.

An increasing number of websites are using ECC to provide their users with adequate security protocols. This is an important component of online privacy. While RSA, Diffie-Hellman, and other first-generation cryptographic algorithms are still the most commonly used, ECC is becoming increasingly popular for security and privacy online.

There are many benefits to using ECC. It saves power, computational resources, and time, both for the browser and the server. This helps make the internet both more secure and faster. However, there are challenges related to elliptic curves. A number of uncertainties and questions have prevented companies from accepting them completely. For example, an algorithm that has made news recently is the Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator.

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