Public-key cryptography is widely used to secure online transactions. The math behind the technology was devised by U.K. Government Communications Headquarters scientists in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The discovery was kept secret to avoid revealing how closely GCHQ was working with the U.S. National Security Agency at the time. The breakthrough by GCHQ scientists James Ellis, Clifford Cocks, and Matthew Williamson only came to light in 1997, when their work was declassified.
In public-key cryptography, data is encrypted using a widely distributed public key, and can be decrypted using a private key. Cocks, the GCHQ mathematician … Read more