Does USA government have the sufficient processing power to crack keys in matter of seconds? Let say 2048-bit RSA, for example.

Since the RSA algorithm was developed by USA government (NSA?), I wouldn't be surprised if there was a secret backdoor built in it.

  • 3
    RSA wasn't invented by the NSA. It was invented by Rivest, Shamir and Adleman, three professors at MIT and simultaneously by Clifford Cocks of GCHQ (that's the British NSA).
    – user2213
    Commented Jun 15, 2013 at 20:31
  • 1
    Here's some interesting details: RSA was not invented by the NSA, but the NSA later claimed to have independently created the same technology earlier (though they obviously never told anyone). RSA will be crackable by quantum computers when they exist. AES will not. No currently existing asymmetric encryption algorithms are safe against attacks from quantum computers, but they may be possible if we discover a better trap-door function.
    – tylerl
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 0:54
  • 1
    Quantum computers already exist.
    – this.josh
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 5:26

2 Answers 2


The short answer is: Very unlikely

A 2048-bit RSA key has a strength equivalent to a 112-bit AES key, which is infeasible to crack. In fact, to put this into prospective, cracking a 112-bit AES key would take all the computers ever built to run for 22500 years.

As for your concerns about a backdoor. RSA, AES, and virtually all standard cryptography-related algorithms, have been well-vetted for many years by cryptographers, mathematicians, and security experts from all over the world. Had there been any backdoor, it sure would have been be discovered.


I agree with Adnan's answer that it's highly unlikely that RSA 2048 bit keys can be cracked in "a matter of seconds" but you should be considering more than just key strength.

A well-resourced group with time, talent and money is going to try many approaches to get what they want: key cracking, key stealing, host compromise, social engineering, etc.

You should also consider how long those messages need to be secure. We could make a long list of crypto systems that were considered very secure at one time but have been weakened by Moore's law and scrutiny. Credit cards have a relatively short lifespan before they expire, your SSN could be sensitive for 80-100 years.

  • 2
    You're right, but the question was about directly cracking encryption, not side channel attacks.
    – Anorov
    Commented Jun 15, 2013 at 18:29
  • Obligatory : xkcd.com/538 Commented Jun 15, 2013 at 18:33

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