What are some interesting mathematics facts? by Sayantan Mahato
Answer by Sayantan Mahato:
The Illegal Number That Shouldn't Exist (And can probably land you in jail)
Yes, there's exists a number like that.
And it has the potential to make the police arrest you.
But sadly (and fortunately), it is a 1401-digit number.
Among the various weird and wacky laws such as — In Russia, Vladimir Putin just recently made it illegal to tell kids that gay people exist.
Here's one which surprisingly is both wacky and logical at the same time.
And if the idea of existence of such a number doesn't already make you wonder how, then the next line is certainly for you:
It's used to prevent sharing of illegal files and documents.
How it came to this?
In the early years of the previous decade (around 2000s), before the coming of streaming services like Netflix, most of the video content was consumed via DVDs. But companies had to be careful with that as people often tried to copy the content to their own DVDs and making plagiarised copy of the original content. So when the plagiarised content, for obvious reasons of being lesser priced started circulating in the market, this led to huge losses in studios revenue. They somehow had to get ahead of those indulged in this act of piracy.
So they started encrypting their content with keys, which were accessible to only the specific user which locked down the content to the DVDs so that they couldn't get copied. And somehow in the midst of this, companies also started suing people because of the copyright infringement and was a very big blow to the pirates.
But, they weren't far behind too. Tools and programs started appearing that could potentially circumvent and bypass these DVD's copyright protection and make bootleg copies of the original content. And somehow, the companies made it illegal for indulging any such activity of circumventing as well lobbied very hard to get the code off the charts and were pretty much successful at that too.
Until again, the pirates gave them another blow.
Remember that computers don't understand human language? They only understand in the form of zeroes and ones. It follows a binary language.
And going by this rule: almost any program could be represented in the form of numbers.
Now if you think that's just plain insane, then you have underestimated the power of internet and its netizens.
Phil Carmondy in 2001, was able to generate a prime number which was basically the binary representation of the program. The number actually was a compressed version of the C program that was able to circumvent and bypass these copyrights!
So basically: he was able to find a number which could replicate all the workings of the program that was used to circumvent the DVD's copyrights.
It is important that what he found was an illegal prime number. And if you are into networking and IT, you must have the idea of importance of prime numbers.
Basically, it is rampantly used across the internet for encryptions decryption purposes. The basic logic being this: its easy to get it from one way but not the other.
Two prime numbers can be multiplied to get a composite number. But a composite number cannot be easily factorised to its prime factors. And just in case, we are talking about tens of hundreds of digits. So you can multiple two 1000 digits prime number to get a very big number. But it would take probably years even for a supercomputer to break down that number to the exact couple of prime numbers used to get the product. So these two numbers act as keys which are only known to you which when multiplied get your product which will unlock the content stored.
Encrypted data uses prime numbers with thousands of digits. This is used across payment gateways as well as discussed above as CD Keys to prevent making bootleg copies of content.
Sony even tried to sue couple of hackers who were able to bypass the copyright and even publishing the keys on the internet!
In fact, other hackers went a step ahead. They converted the binary code into a hexadecimal code. And in case you don't know, hexadecimal code is used to represent colors on the webpages over Internet. So basically the keys were converted into images!
More or less like this:
The more you try to understand the Internet, the lesser will you ever understand about it!
Coming to the main topic, it was soon made illegal to have the program under any way under the Digital Millennium Act (in US).
Infact, its worth noting that it isn't illegal all over the world. Its primarily banned in US and some other bunch of countries only!
So unless you are actually from the US, your personal security won't be jeopardized (though I'm not sure about extradition laws in your country) for which you can be brought to US and punished.
But only when you can find such a number in the first place.