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Slashdot: AES: Learn All About It

Feb 22, 2001, 23:08 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jason Bennett)

"Since it was officially approved by the U.S. Government in November of 1976, most of the world's sensitive commercial traffic has been secured through the use of the Data Encryption Standard (DES). In its twenty-five year lifetime, it has become the most widely used, most widely trusted, and most widely studied encryption algorithm in existence. Alas, in the same way that your Atari 2600[?] is currently sitting on the floor of your closet, DES' lifetime has come to an end as well. This was most dramatically demonstrated in the three DES Challenges sponsored by RSA Labs between January of 1997 and January of 1999, with a DES-encrypted message eventually being broken in less than 24 hours. This challenge also witnessed the birth of a DES-specific cracking computer, a machine widely theorized about, but never before (publicly) built. Although variants of DES (most notably Triple DES) are still widely used, it became clear that a new algorithm would be needed for the next twenty-five years."

"Thus was born the Advanced Encryption Algorithm Development Effort. Beginning in January, 1997 (just before the RSA challenges finally broke DES), the National Institute of Standards and Technology announced its intent to begin the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) process. The initial AES workshop was held in April, with the official call for algorithms going forth in September. Importantly, this call specified that the algorithms submitted have a key length of 128 bits, and be free of intellectual property constraints. Algorithms would be accepted from domestic and international submitters, and the resulting algorithm would be completely public. The con test would also consider both the hardware and the software implementation -- a divergence from DES, which was specifically designed for use in hardware. Importantly, the hardware that the AES had to operate in could vary from the largest supercomputer to a ROM-based smart card or other embedded ed environment. A candidate algorithm might well be optimized for one or the other, but had to perform at least reasonably well on all to have a real chance of being selected. Finally, this algorithm would be designed from the ground up to use the long key length, and thus would be faster and more secure than Triple-DES is at that length."

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