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How can we calculate A^B mod C quickly if B is a power of 2 ?

Using modular multiplication rules:

i.e. A^2 mod C = (A * A) mod C = ((A mod C) * (A mod C)) mod C

We can use this to calculate 7^256 mod 13 quickly

7^1 mod 13 = 7
7^2 mod 13 = (7^1 *7^1) mod 13 = (7^1 mod 13 * 7^1 mod 13) mod 13

We can substitute our previous result for 7^1 mod 13 into this equation.

7^2 mod 13 = (7 *7) mod 13 = 49 mod 13 = 10
7^2 mod 13 = 10

7^4 mod 13 = (7^2 *7^2) mod 13 = (7^2 mod 13 * 7^2 mod 13) mod 13

We can substitute our previous result for 7^2 mod 13 into this equation.

7^4 mod 13 = (10 * 10) mod 13 = 100 mod 13 = 9
7^4 mod 13 = 9

7^8 mod 13 = (7^4 * 7^4) mod 13 = (7^4 mod 13 * 7^4 mod 13) mod 13

We can substitute our previous result for 7^4 mod 13 into this equation.

7^8 mod 13 = (9 * 9) mod 13 = 81 mod 13 = 3
7^8 mod 13 = 3

We continue in this manner, substituting previous results into our equations.

...after 5 iterations we hit:

7^256 mod 13 = (7^128 * 7^128) mod 13 = (7^128 mod 13 * 7^128 mod 13) mod 13
7^256 mod 13 = (3 * 3) mod 13 = 9 mod 13 = 9
7^256 mod 13 = 9

This has given us a method to calculate A^B mod C quickly provided that B is a power of 2.

However, we also need a method for fast modular exponentiation when B is not a power of 2.

How can we calculate A^B mod C quickly for any B ?

Step 1: Divide B into powers of 2 by writing it in binary

Start at the rightmost digit, let k=0 and for each digit:

  • If the digit is 1, we need a part for 2^k, otherwise we do not
  • Add 1 to k, and move left to the next digit

Step 2: Calculate mod C of the powers of two ≤ B

5^1 mod 19 = 5

5^2 mod 19 = (5^1 * 5^1) mod 19 = (5^1 mod 19 * 5^1 mod 19) mod 19
5^2 mod 19 = (5 * 5) mod 19 = 25 mod 19
5^2 mod 19 = 6

5^4 mod 19 = (5^2 * 5^2) mod 19 = (5^2 mod 19 * 5^2 mod 19) mod 19
5^4 mod 19 = (6 * 6) mod 19 = 36 mod 19
5^4 mod 19 = 17

5^8 mod 19 = (5^4 * 5^4) mod 19 = (5^4 mod 19 * 5^4 mod 19) mod 19
5^8 mod 19 = (17 * 17) mod 19 = 289 mod 19
5^8 mod 19 = 4

5^16 mod 19 = (5^8 * 5^8) mod 19 = (5^8 mod 19 * 5^8 mod 19) mod 19
5^16 mod 19 = (4 * 4) mod 19 = 16 mod 19
5^16 mod 19 = 16

5^32 mod 19 = (5^16 * 5^16) mod 19 = (5^16 mod 19 * 5^16 mod 19) mod 19
5^32 mod 19 = (16 * 16) mod 19 = 256 mod 19
5^32 mod 19 = 9

5^64 mod 19 = (5^32 * 5^32) mod 19 = (5^32 mod 19 * 5^32 mod 19) mod 19
5^64 mod 19 = (9 * 9) mod 19 = 81 mod 19
5^64 mod 19 = 5

Step 3: Use modular multiplication properties to combine the calculated mod C values

5^117 mod 19 = ( 5^1 * 5^4 * 5^16 * 5^32 * 5^64) mod 19
5^117 mod 19 = ( 5^1 mod 19 * 5^4 mod 19 * 5^16 mod 19 * 5^32 mod 19 * 5^64 mod 19) mod 19
5^117 mod 19 = ( 5 * 17 * 16 * 9 * 5 ) mod 19
5^117 mod 19 = 61200 mod 19 = 1
5^117 mod 19 = 1

Notes:

More optimization techniques exist, but are outside the scope of this article. It should be noted that when we perform modular exponentiation in cryptography, it is not unusual to use exponents for B > 1000 bits.