Management

NIST head defends work with NSA

Patrick Gallagher

NSA will continue to be involved in cybersecurity standards because of its 'deep reservoir of knowhow,' says NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. (NIST photo)

The director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology defended his agency on Sept. 25 against the severe criticism it has received in recent weeks following revelations that the National Security Agency worked to weaken encryption standards NIST adopted in 2006

"There is not a problem with NIST collaborating with NSA," NIST Director Patrick Gallagher said at a cybersecurity summit at the National Press Club in Washington.

According to The Hill, Gallagher said NIST will continue to work with the NSA because the spy agency has a "deep reservoir of knowhow in cybersecurity activities," adding that the NSA plays a similar role to NIST in protecting federal computer networks.

Gallagher said NIST is "redoubling" its efforts to be transparent in an effort to rebuild trust within the private sector, for which it assists in setting guidelines, policy and standards in the private and public sectors.

That trust was damaged in early September when top-secret documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed the NSA "became the sole editor" of weakened cryptographic standards that NIST later approved for use.

In response, NIST reopened the questioned encryption standards for public comment and authored a technical bulletin recommending against use of the standards.

"NIST is fully committed to the highest levels of scientific and technical quality and integrity," Gallagher said. "This is in our bone marrow at NIST. If we are to contribute to this dialogue of securing and providing trust to the Internet, everyone has to be confident that our technical work stands on its own merits."

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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