Draft language signals more transparent NIST

digital key

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released new guidance on cryptographic standards that officials hope will begin to earn back the trust of the cyber community and  general public after leaked classified documents in September showed the National Security Agency subverted NIST-adopted computer encryption standards.

NIST has spent the past six months on the defensive, offering few public comments from officials and a few embarrassing recommendations – including one advising against using its own Special Publication (SP) 800-90A.

On Feb. 20, NIST released draft guidance of a document that, if adopted, would further formalize NIST’s claims of transparency and openness into policy.

The draft guidance, titled “NIST Cryptographic Standards and Guidelines Development Process,” puts an emphasis on transparency, openness, technical merit, balance and integrity. It also calls for all stakeholders in the private sector, academia and the public at large to have access to “essential information” regarding standards-related activities and venues, with a commitment from NIST to be transparent during the development and documentation of cryptographic standards. Selection and evaluation criteria, specifications, security and performance characteristics and other standards development-related information must be made transparent to all stakeholders, the document states.

The draft guidance makes clear that NIST will continue to work with the NSA for two reasons:  because of the NSA’s “vast expertise in cryptography,” and because NIST is statutorily obligated to consult with the NSA on standards under the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002.

NIST is asking for public feedback on its released draft guidance by April 18. The revised publication will “serve as the basis for NIST’s future standards development process.”

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group