07-14-2014 09:51 PM
By Shaun Nichols, 14 Jul 2014
The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been urged to hire more crypto experts so it can confidently tell the NSA to take a hike.
A report (PDF) from NIST's Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT) – which scrutinizes and advises the institute – scolds NIST for being too reliant on the NSA's cryptography expertise. VCAT cited the adoption and backing the use of the dodgy Dual EC DRBG algorithm, an NSA-championed random number generator that was later found to be flawed [PDF].
Random numbers are vital in cryptography, as they thwart an eavesdropper attempting to decrypt intercepted enciphered data.
The report was launched in the wake of allegations from whistleblower Edward Snowden that the NSA deliberately weakened Dual EC DRBG and other algorithms for surveillance purposes. Despite having been warned about the insecurities years ago, the report found that NIST – which is part of the US Department of Commerce – relied heavily on input from the NSA in maintaining the standard.
VCAT members believe that to guard itself from such scandals in the future, NIST will need to become more transparent and better engage with the security community as a whole.