My security algorithm is faster than yours

Does it matter?

IBM claims to have invented a new encryption algorithm which can encrypt and authenticate data in one step.

The algorithm takes advantage of parallel processing hardware, to cut in half the time taken to encrypt data. However, the news has failed to impress everyone.

IBM says the algorithm could be used to take some of the load off networks, but Bruce Schneier, the founder of Counterpane Technologies, says the speed-up is insignificant in the greater scheme of things. He invoked Moore's Law, commenting: "It's a factor of two. Wait a year, and you get that speed-up for free."

In technological terms, perhaps this is true. But these transistors don't grow of their own accord, and if you are the one footing the bill for the hardware, it might be worth a moment of your time.

"The guys with the long-haul networks are going to be interested," Charles Palmer, manager of network security and cryptography at IBM Research said. "So are all these guys with [mobile commerce] in their eyes." He indicated that some network infrastructure companies were already testing the algorithm as a foundation for some of their security technologies.

Schneier also points out that this is not the first time the concept has been investigated: "Signcryption," as it is known, has been studied by several researchers at Monash University in Australia.

The algorithm will be submitted to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which will evaluate the algorithm and decide whether or not to recommend it as a standard for securing communications.

And to give credit where it is due, the maths whizz responsible for the algorithm is Charanjit Jutla, a researcher at IBM. ®

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