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Tuesday, 15 July 2014 12:28

US uses standards to spy

Written by Nick Farrell



Back door by design

U.S. government standards appear to be designed to enable spying by the National Security Agency. According to a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) panel, there are widely used coding formulas that should be jettisoned.

The panel was commissioned by the NIST after a required formula, called Dual Elliptic Curve, had a back door which was being used as a Trojan horse for the NSA. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been legally required to consult with the NSA’s defensive experts in approving them and other cryptography standards.

NIST discontinued that formula, called Dual Elliptic Curve, and asked its external advisory board and a special panel of experts to make recommendations that were published on Monday alongside more biting conclusions by the individual experts. As a whole, the panels recommended that NIST review its obligation to confer with the NSA and seek legal changes “where it hinders its ability to independently develop the best cryptographic standards to serve not only the United States government but the broader community.”

It asked the NIST to weigh the advice of individual task force members who made more dramatic suggestions, such as calling for the replacement of a larger set of curves approved for authenticating users, in part because they were selected through unclear means by the NSA.

Nick Farrell

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