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Cryptographers Chosen to Duke It Out in Final Fight

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The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has selected five Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA-3) entrants as finalists for its competition to find a replacement for the gold-standard security algorithm. The finalists include BLAKE, devised by a team led by Jean-Philippe Aumasson of the Swiss company Nagravision, and Skein, which is the work of computer security expert and blogger Bruce Schneier.

"We picked five finalists that seemed to have the best combination of confidence in the security of the algorithm and their performance on a wide range of platforms" such as desktop computers and servers, says NIST's William Burr. "We wanted a set of finalists that were different internally, so that a new attack would be less likely to damage all of them, just as biological diversity makes it less likely that a single disease can wipe out all the members of a species."

The finalists incorporate new design ideas that have arisen in recent years. The Keccak algorithm from a team led by STMicroelectronics' Guido Bertoni uses a novel idea called sponge hash construction to produce a final string of 1s and 0s.

The teams have until Jan. 16, 2011, to tweak their algorithms, then an international community of cryptanalysts will spend a year looking for weaknesses. NIST willl pick a winner in 2012.

From New Scientist
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Abstracts Copyright © 2010 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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