Commerce Secretary confirms encryption standard

Commerce Secretary confirms encryption standard

Commerce Secretary Donald Evans has announced finalization of the Federal Information Processing Standard for the Advanced Encryption Standard.

The adoption of FIPS-197 is the last step in replacing the aging Data Encryption Standard and caps a four-year search for a stronger means of encryption. DES and Triple DES will continue to be used in government and commercial markets, but AES now is the standard for federal use and DES will be phased out.

DES was developed to government specifications and adopted in 1977, when encryption was primarily a government function. Advancing technology has made it less secure, and although Triple DES is much stronger, it is a clumsy means of encryption, experts said. Commerce began an open competition for a replacement in 1997.

Fifteen initial entries had been whittled down to five finalists by 1999, all of which support 128-, 192- and 256-bit keys. After public testing and evaluation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Rijndael algorithm was selected. Rijndael, developed by Belgian cryptographers Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen, was selected as the best combination of security, performance, efficiency and flexibility.

Encryption companies already have begun developing AES products, and the FIPS approval process for them is expected to begin soon.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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