New formula for security selected

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has proposed a new data

encryption algorithm designed to better protect information stored on computers

and deemed essential for e-commerce.

On Monday, NIST officials chose the Rijndael formula developed by Belgian

cryptographers Joan Daemen of Proton World International and Vincent Rijmen

of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven to become the new Advanced Encryption

Standard (AES). The formula beat four other finalists after a three-year

competition.

When approved, AES will replace the aging Data Encryption Standard.

NIST adopted DES in 1977 as an information processing standard to be used

by federal agencies to protect sensitive, unclassified information.

The new standard is essential for e-commerce programs to flourish, said

Cheryl Shavers, the Commerce Department's undersecretary for technology.

"Security is one of the basics we can not ignore for e-business and e-government"

to take off, she said, adding that buyers and sellers need to have confidence

that the information is secure.

NIST will formally announce the proposed standard in the Federal Register

in several months and anticipates making it a federal information processing

standard. It will be made available publicly and royalty-free, but it will

not be mandatory.

NIST, however, expects government and industry to quickly adopt the

new standard, as was the case with DES, said NIST Director Ray Kammer. The

National Security Agency, the Treasury Department and financial institutions

are among the organizations that are expected to adopt the algorithm quickly,

Kammer said.

Although NIST could have selected more than one encryption standard,

NIST decided on one to encourage interoperability, Kammer said. "By selecting

one, we have expectations of it being widely implemented in one version."

NIST chose the Rijndael algorithm in part because it has "exceptional

performance" on most platforms, low memory requirements and is easy to implement,

Kammer said.

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