Every IT product available makes a claim as to functionality and/or offered security. When protecting sensitive data, government agencies need to have a minimum level of assurance that a product's stated security claim is valid. There are also legislative restrictions regarding certain types of technology, such as cryptography, that require Federal agencies to use only tested and validated products.
Federal agencies, industry, and the public rely on cryptography for the protection of information and communications used in electronic commerce, critical infrastructure, and other application areas. At the core of all products offering cryptographic services is the cryptographic module. Cryptographic modules, which contain cryptographic algorithms, are used in products and systems to provide security services such as confidentiality, integrity, and authentication. Although cryptography is used to provide security, weaknesses such as poor design or weak algorithms can render the product insecure and place highly sensitive information at risk. Adequate testing and validation of the cryptographic module and its underlying cryptographic algorithms against established standards is essential to provide security assurance.
The testing-focused activities performed under the auspices of the Cryptographic Algorithm Validation Program and the Cryptographic Module Validation Program include the validation of cryptographic algorithms and cryptographic module implementations, accreditation of independent testing laboratories, development of test suites, providing technical support to industry forums, and conducting education, training, and outreach programs. The resulting goal is to improve the security and technical quality of cryptographic products needed by Federal agencies and industry.
Activities in this area have historically, and continue to, involve large amounts of collaboration and the facilitation of relationships with other entities. Federal agencies that have collaborated recently with these activities are the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Security Agency, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the Social Security Administration, the United States Postal Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Aviation Administration, and NIST's National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program. The list of industry entities that have worked with us in this area is long and includes the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Oracle, Cisco Systems, Lucent Technologies, Microsoft Corporation, International Business Machines (IBM), VISA, MasterCard, Computer Associates, RSA Security, Research in Motion, Sun Microsystems, Network Associates, Entrust, and Fortress Technologies. The Division also has collaborated at the global level with Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, India, Japan, and Korea in this area.