A toy RSA implementation


I had fun with a toy implementation of RSA.

DISCLAIMER: this is a TOY implementation! Don’t use it for anything serious!

I was reading through What every computer science major should know and came to this:

RSA is easy enough to implement that everyone should do it.

Well, it turns out that doing a toy implementation (i.e. an implementation that grasps the basics of the algorithm, but lacks a ton of additional insights that a proper, robust implementation MUST take into account) is very straightforward.

If you’re curious about the underlying maths, I think that RSA - theory and implementation is a fair description of the topic, so I will not repeat it here.

Here’s my implementation:

package ToyRSA;
use v5.24;
use warnings;
use experimental 'signatures';
no warnings 'experimental::signatures';

use Math::BigInt;

sub toy_rsa_keys ($p, $q) {
   ($p, $q) = map { Math::BigInt->new($_) } ($p, $q);
   my $n = $p * $q;             # "big unfactorable" number
   my $T = $n - $q - $p + 1;    # totient (p - 1) * (q - 1)

   my $e = Math::BigInt->new(0x10001);    # try this first
   $e = ($e >> 1) | 1 while $e >= $T || Math::BigInt::bgcd($e, $T) != 1;
   $e += 2 while $e < 2 || Math::BigInt::bgcd($e, $T) != 1;
   die "wtf?!?\n" if $e >= $T;

   return ([$e, $n], [$e->copy->bmodinv($T), $n]);
} ## end sub toy_rsa_keys

sub toy_rsa_apply ($m, $key) {
   die "too low stuff!\n" if $m >= $key->[1];    # m >= n
   return Math::BigInt->new($m)->bmodpow($key->@*);

sub to_hex ($x) { Math::BigInt->new($x)->as_hex }
sub print_key ($name, $key) {
   my ($mod, $n) = map { to_hex($_) } $key->@*;
   say "$name";
   say "   mod: $mod";
   say "     n: $n";

exit sub (
   $cleartext = 42,
   $p         = '170141183460469231731687303715884105727',
   $q         = '43143988327398957279342419750374600193',
   my ($public, $private) = toy_rsa_keys($p, $q);
   print_key(private => $private);
   print_key(public => $public);

   my $encrypted = toy_rsa_apply($cleartext, $private);
   my $decrypted = toy_rsa_apply($encrypted, $public);
   say "encrypted: @{[to_hex($encrypted)]}";
   say "decrypted: @{[to_hex($decrypted)]}";
   say "cleartext: @{[to_hex($cleartext)]}";
}->(@ARGV) unless caller;


It’s been a bit anti-climax to discover that Math::BigInt is actually already shipped with every operation that we need for the algorithm:

  • support for arbitrarily long integers;
  • finding the inverse of an integer modulo another integer (bmodinv);
  • calculating the power of two integers, modulo a third one (bmodpow).

It also supports calculating the greatest common divisor between two integers, which comes handy to find a suitable public modulo (in most practical implementation it is already set to decimal 65537, i.e. hexadecimal 0x10001).

It turns out that the most complicated thing is precisely finding out a public modulo that is compatible with the choice of the input “large” primes $p and $q:

my $e = Math::BigInt->new(0x10001);    # try this first
$e = ($e >> 1) | 1 while $e >= $T || Math::BigInt::bgcd($e, $T) != 1;
$e += 2 while $e < 2 || Math::BigInt::bgcd($e, $T) != 1;
die "wtf?!?\n" if $e >= $T;

We start from the usual choice (i.e. 65537). As I understand it, this choice simplifies calculations because it has only two bits set (as it is evident from its hexadecimal representation 0x10001).

Then, we have to make sure that the candidate is both less than and coprime with the totient value (that is $(p-1)(q-1)$ in our case). If $p and $q are sufficiently large, then 65537 will be fine because it will be less than the totient and surely coprime with it (because it is a prime number!).

If our input primes $p and $q are too low, though, we have to find out a different candidate for $e. This is what this line aims to:

$e = ($e >> 1) | 1 while $e >= $T || Math::BigInt::bgcd($e, $T) != 1;

At each iteration, $e is shifted one position to the right, then made odd again. This means that e.g. the starting value 0x10001 becomes 0x8001, i.e. in binary:

0x10001 -> 1 0000 0000 0000 0001
0x08001 -> 0 1000 0000 0000 0001

The new candidate is lower than the previous one (which is good for comparing it against the totient), odd (which we are required to guarantee) and “simple” (only two bits set), so we test if it is a good one by:

  • comparing it against the totient $T, and
  • making sure it is coprime with $T (the new candidate is not guaranteed to be prime).

We might end up having $e equal to 1, which is not good because its inverse is… 1, which would mean no encryption. For this corner case, we have the following line:

$e += 2 while $e < 2 || Math::BigInt::bgcd($e, $T) != 1;

This iterates through all odd numbers until we find one that is co-prime with the totient $T. Crude but effective.

If after all of this we still land on something bigger than, or equal to the totient value $T… it means that our input $p and $q are really low (i.e. 2 and 3) and we bail out.

One final implementation node, when calculating the private key we have to find the inverse of $e modulo $T. As said, Math::BigInt covers it with bmodinv, but this is an operation performed on the object, i.e. this:


would change $e setting it to the inverse modulo $T. To avoid this, then, we use copy:

return ([$e, $n], [$e->copy->bmodinv($T), $n]);

One last consideration… this kind of anti-climax moment when you discover that your language supports stuff out of the box… are awesome 😍

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