Finite fields of order 2m are called binary fields or characteristic-two finite fields. They are of special interest because they are particularly efficient for implementation in hardware, or on a binary computer.

The elements of GF(2m) are binary polynomials, i.e. polynomials whose coefficients are either 0 or 1. There are 2m such polynomials in the field and the degree of each polynomial is no more than m-1. Therefore the elements can be represented as m-bit strings. Each bit in the bit string corresponding to the coefficient in the polynomial at the same position. For example, GF(23) contains 8 element {0, 1, x, x+1, x2, x2+1, x2+x, x2+x+1}. x+1 is actually 0x2+1x+1, so it can be represented as a bit string 011. Similarly, x2+x = 1x2+1x+0, so it can be represented as 110.

In modulo 2 arithmetics, 1+1 ≡ 0 mod 2, 1+0 ≡ 1 mod 2 and 0+0 ≡ 0 mod 2, which coincide with bit-XOR, i.e. 1⊕1=0, 1⊕0=1 0⊕0=0. Therefore for binary polynomials, addition is simply bit-by-bit XOR. Also, in modulo 2 arithmetics, -1 ≡ 1 mod 2, so the result of subtraction of elements is the same as addition. For example:

Multiplication of binary polynomials can be implemented as simple bit-shift and XOR. For example:

In GF(2m), when the degree of the result is more than m-1, it needs to be reduced modulo a irreducible polynomial. This can be implemented as bit-shift and XOR. For example, x3+x+1 is an irreducible polynomial and x4+x3+x+1 ≡ x2+x mod (x3+x+1). The bit-string representation of x4+x3+x+1 is 11011 and the bit-string representation of x3+x+1 is 1011. The degree of 11011 is 4 and the degree of the irreducible polynomial is 3, so the reduction starts by shifting the irreducible polynomial 1011 one bit left, you get 10110, then 11011⊕10110 = 1101. The degree of 1101 is 3 which is still greater than m-1=2, so you need another XOR. But you don't need to shift the irreducible polynomial this time. 1101⊕1011 =0110, which is the bit-string representation of x2+x.

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