Technical Terms and Definitions

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IDEA - Software

IDEA, unlike the other block cipher algorithms discussed in this section, is patented by the Swiss firm of Ascom. They have, however, been generous in allowing, with permission, free noncommercial use of their algorithm, with the result that IDEA is best known as the block cipher algorithm used within the popular encryption program PGP.

The IDEA algorithm is interesting in its own right. It includes some steps which, at first, make it appear that it might be a non-invertible hash function instead of a block cipher. Also, it is interesting in that it entirely avoids the use of any lookup tables or S-boxes.
IDEA uses 52 subkeys, each 16 bits long. Two are used during each round proper, and four are used before every round and after the last round. It has eight rounds.

The plaintext block in IDEA is divided into four quarters, each 16 bits long. Three operations are used in IDEA to combine two 16 bit values to produce a 16 bit result, addition, XOR, and multiplication. Addition is normal addition with carries, modulo 65,536. Multiplication, as used in IDEA, requires some explanation.

Multiplication by zero always produces zero, and is not invertible. Multiplication modulo n is also not invertible whenever it is by a number which is not relatively prime to n. The way multiplication is used in IDEA, it is necessary that it be always invertible. This is true of multiplication IDEA style.

The number 65,537, which is 2^16+1, is a prime number. (Incidentally, 2^8+1, or 257, is also prime, and so is 2^4+1, or 17, but 2^32+1 is not prime, so IDEA cannot be trivially scaled up to a 128-bit block size.) Thus, if one forms a multiplication table for the numbers from 1 through 65,536, each row and column will contain every number once only, forming a Latin square, and providing an invertible operation. The numbers that 16 bits normally represent are from 0 to 65,535 (or, perhaps even more commonly, from -32,768 to 32,767). In IDEA, for purposes of multiplication, a 16 bit word containing all zeroes is considered to represent the number 65,536; other numbers are represented in conventional unsigned notation, and multiplication is modulo the prime number 65,537.