The National Institute of Standards and Technology today launched a participatory process with American industry to develop an Advanced Encryption Standard. The AES will provide a means to scramble data to protect vital electronic information with a high level of security.
A notice in today's issue of the Federal Register invites security product manufacturers; voluntary standards organizations; federal, state and local government computer users and others to comment on the draft minimum acceptability requirements and draft evaluation criteria described. These will help lay the groundwork for evaluating and choosing the mathematical formula, or algorithm, to be specified publicly by the standard.
After public comments are taken into consideration and the criteria are finalized, individuals and organizations wishing to submit algorithms for consideration will be invited to do so by public notice. Candidate algorithms are not being solicited by today's announcement.
The AES will be a Federal Information Processing Standard, which applies to agencies of the federal government, and will be available for voluntary use by companies, state and local governments and others who wish to use a strong encryption standard that is backed by the federal government. In developing an Advanced Encryption Standard the government will seek to leverage the work already under way by industry to develop new encryption methods to succeed the Data Encryption Standard. The DES is a current federal standard that is used extensively by many organizations, including the financial industry. First approved in 1977, DES will be reviewed again before the end of 1998.
Since DES is used widely and many organizations have considerable investments in an installed base of encryption equipment, NIST notes in the Federal Register that "a multi-year transition period will be necessary to move toward any new encryption standard and that DES will continue to be of sufficient strength for many applications." NIST will host public workshops and consult with industry, standards organizations, government agencies and others to ensure that any transition is smooth.
Written comments on the draft criteria may be sent to the director of the Information Technology Laboratory, FIPS for AES Comments, A231 Technology Building, NIST, Gaithersburg, Md. 20899-0001, email: aes [at] nist.gov.
A non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.