Frequently, I have seen people use the term "order" in cryptography (the group-theoretic one). I have a mathematical background and "order" (say, for prime modulus $p$) is defined as the smallest integer, such that:

$$a^r \equiv 1 \pmod p$$

So, a generator (something which has the max possible order; i.e., order is $\phi(p)=p-1$) will have order $p-1$. In case of a composite group, the generator should have order $\phi(N)$.

How is it that, frequently, I read in crypto literature that people say generator has order $N$?

For example, the first answer at: When do we need composite order groups for bilinear maps and when prime order?

Am I missing some details or is my understanding incorrect?

  • $\begingroup$ For a good understanding, take a look at Lagrange theorem on finite groups, and order of an element. $\endgroup$ Jul 15, 2015 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ I think I see it now, thanks !! As the first answer suggests, N is not the modulus in these expressions, its the order (or size) of the group (which in general will be different from the modulus) $\endgroup$ Jul 15, 2015 at 16:36

1 Answer 1


You probably know that cyclic groups of any order exist, so it is perfectly possible to have a cyclic group of order $pq$, and to consider a generator thereof.

  • $\begingroup$ I thought about this, so in that case the modulus will be some different number just the order will be $pq$. Is that right ? $\endgroup$ Jul 15, 2015 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ That's probably possible, but not all groups are "integers modulo $n$", there are many other groups. The question you link deals with groups of points of elliptic curves, for example. $\endgroup$
    – fkraiem
    Jul 15, 2015 at 16:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Ah, I see, thanks a lot !! As you said, even in my restricted sense of groups, $N$ they refer to is the group order and not the modulus.. This makes things a lot better, thanks !! $\endgroup$ Jul 15, 2015 at 16:38

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