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Overview

Cryptography involves techniques for exchanging secure messages even in the presence of adversaries. As our electronic networks grow increasingly open and interconnected, it is crucial to have cryptographic standards, algorithms and encryption methods that provide a foundation for e-commerce transactions, mobile device conversations and other exchanges of data. NIST has fostered the development of cryptographic techniques and technology for nearly 50 years. 

Cryptography is a continually evolving field that drives research and innovation. The Data Encryption Standard (DES), published in 1977 as a Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS), was groundbreaking for its time but would fall far short of the levels of protection needed today. NIST continues to lead public collaborations for developing modern cryptography, including:

  • Block ciphers, which encrypt data in block-sized chunks (rather than one bit at a time) and are useful in encrypting large amounts of data. 
  • Cryptographic hash algorithms, which create short digests, or hashes, of the information being protected. These digests find use in many security applications including digital signatures, the development of which NIST also leads. 
  • Key establishment, employed in public-key cryptography to establish the data protection keys used by the communicating parties. 
  • Post-quantum cryptography, intended to be secure against both quantum and classical computers and deployable without drastic changes to existing communication protocols and networks. 
  • Lightweight cryptography, which could be used in small devices such as Internet of Things devices and other resource-limited platforms that would be overtaxed by current cryptographic algorithms.
  • Privacy-enhancing cryptography, intended to allow research on private data without revealing aspects of the data that could be used to identify its owner. 

Post Quantum Encryption

Post-Quantum Cryptography: the Good, the Bad, and the Powerful
Post-Quantum Cryptography: the Good, the Bad, and the Powerful
In an animated story featuring NIST’s Matthew Scholl, this video emphasizes how NIST is working with the brightest minds in government, academia, and industry from around the world to develop a new set of encryption standards that will work with our current classical computers—while being resistant to the quantum machines of the future. Quantum computers will be incredibly powerful and will have the potential to provide tremendous societal benefits; however, there are concerns related to how quantum computers could be used by our adversaries, competitors, or criminals. This video explores these scenarios and explains how we are staying ahead of this potential cybersecurity threat. To learn more about NIST’s cryptography work, please visit our main cryptography page: https://www.nist.gov/cryptography. To learn about a specific project, Crypto Agility: Considerations for Migrating to Post-Quantum Cryptographic Algorithms, please visit this page: https://www.nccoe.nist.gov/projects/building-blocks/post-quantum-crypto….

News

collage of transparent tiles, each with an icon on them, a lock, a light bulb, a quantum computer, a computer server, a globe, a tablet, the White House, and a computer screen

Post-Quantum Cryptography: A Q&A With NIST’s Matt Scholl

Quantum computing algorithms seek to use quantum phenomena to perform certain types of calculations much more efficiently than today’s classical, binary, transistor-based computers can. If and when a powerful enough quantum computer is built, it could run algorithms that would break many of the encryption codes we use to protect our data. In this interview with Taking Measure, Matt Scholl, chief
A woman poses for a head shot outdoors.

Spotlight: Solving a Pressing Puzzle With Cryptography Pro Angela Robinson

Two cell phones with equations on the screens

NIST Develops Privacy-Preserving ‘Encounter Metrics’ That Could Help Slow Down Future Pandemics 

An artist's conception shows the algorithms as a group of bike racers on a mountain road, closing in on the finish line over the next hill.

NIST’s Post-Quantum Cryptography Program Enters ‘Selection Round’