Why the Algorithm is So Vital
In this era when plastic represents more than just convenience, there is a serious need for the protection of credit card numbers. Credit card numbers have been a target of choice for many thieves and hackers. One of my card numbers was stolen once and used to pay for travel all over California and Nevada. Meanwhile I was traveling across England and France. Since I have not figured out how to clone myself the itineraries looked rather suspicious on my monthly statement. So the Luhn algorithm is in many ways the Holy Grail of passwords. It cannot save you from losing your card or having someone working in a restaurant copy it down and use it to buy stuff. But it can guard the numbers in way that allows each of us to have our own personal and private account.
Applying the Luhn algorithm can be a time-intensive process but it breaks down to a few simple steps. Grab any credit card from your wallet, start with the second digit from the right and follow the instructions below:
If your final number is divisible by ten, congratulations, you have a real credit card. If
it’s not, you best double check your math because it should be.
Most credit card numbers start with six digits that identify the card issuing company. Then there are 10 digits more that can be arranged in ten billion different combinations. If the last one in the sequence does not compute correctly after applying the Luhn algorithm to the preceding digits then the card number is a fake and will not work. So one company can safely and securely issue about one billion individual cards using the algorithm.
The Challenge of Cracking the Code
The formula has held up to the test of time and the pressures of the underworld. Despite tens of millions of attempts by hundreds of thousands of professional hackers, it remains the gatekeeper for the entire credit card industry. Without it you would not be able to securely use your card and the convenient world of plastic as we know it would experience a mega-meltdown.
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