The spy agency claims that it will be very safe to bypass encryption standards in the future
The head of cybersecurity at the National Security Agency has claimed that the next generation of encryption standards under development in the United States will be violated, even by the US government’s own spies.
“No back door,” NSA cybersecurity director Rob Joyce told Bloomberg in an interview on Friday. The agency is in the process of developing new standards, designed to protect data from future quantum computers, but Joyce has promised that the algorithms will have no intentional flaws.
President Joe Biden’s administration has called for the implementation of quantum-resistant cryptography to protect sensitive data across the U.S. economy by 2035. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will provide new algorithms based on that cryptography.
NIST has been running a public competition since 2016 to select the best algorithm and is expected to announce the winners soon. In 2020, the institute reduced the number of entries for seven finalists from around the world.
After selecting the winners, NIST plans to make them a new public encryption standard by 2024. The purpose is to select the algorithm through an open competition “Build trust and confidence,” Joyce said.
The NSA did not submit any of its classified quantum-resistance algorithms for competition. However, Joyce says the agency’s mathematicians have tried to crack the top entry in the NIST competition to test their strength. “The algorithms of the candidates running NIST competitions are strong, secure and show what we need for quantum resistance,” he said. He said. “We’ve worked against all of them to make sure they’re tough.”
In 2014, an NSA-enhanced encryption algorithm was dropped as a federal standard amid suspicions that the company had installed a backdoor. Two Microsoft employees have reportedly discovered a suspicious error in the algorithm.
In 2013, leaked documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the agency was secretly surveying the telecommunications records of millions of Americans. A federal appeals court found in 2020 that the NSA had violated foreign intelligence surveillance laws and that surveillance could be unconstitutional.
Other documents leaked to Snowden show some NSA tactics for encryption violations, raising suspicions that the company is using a backdoor to the algorithm it created.