Spy agency says future encryption standards are too secure to be bypassed
The National Security Agency’s cybersecurity chief has claimed that next-generation encryption standards under development in the US will be unbreachable, even by the American government spies themselves.
“There are no backdoors,” Rob Joyce, the NSA’s director of cybersecurity, told Bloomberg in an interview on Friday. The agency has been involved in the process of developing the new standards, which are designed to protect data from future quantum computers, but Joyce promised there won’t be any deliberate flaws injected in the algorithms.
President Joe Biden’s administration has called for implementing quantum-resistant cryptography protecting sensitive data across the US economy by 2035. New algorithms will be provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST.
The NIST has been running a public competition since 2016 to choose the best algorithms and is expected to announce the winners soon. The institute has narrowed down the number of entries to seven finalist from all over the globe in 2020.
The NIST will turn the selected winners into new encryption standards for public use by 2024 after it has determined the winners. Open competition was used to select the algorithms. “build trust and confidence,”Joyce spoke.
The NSA didn’t submit any of its classified quantum-resistant algorithms for the contest. Joyce stated that mathematicians at the agency tried to break top NIST entries to prove their strength. “Those candidate algorithms that NIST is running the competitions on all appear strong, secure and what we need for quantum resistance,”He said. “We’ve worked against all of them to make sure they are solid.”
A 2014 NSA-developed encryption method was dropped by the federal government. This followed suspicions that an agency backdoor had been installed. Reports say that two Microsoft employees found a flaw in this algorithm.
Edward Snowden was a former NSA contractor who leaked documents in 2013. These records showed that the agency was secretly monitoring millions of Americans’ telecommunications data. Federal appeals courts ruled in 2020 that the NSA was violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This suggests that surveillance might have been unconstitutional.
The Snowden leak also revealed other documents that showed NSA techniques to breach encryption. It raised suspicion that it was using a backdoor into the algorithm created by the agency.