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US.gov plans DES's retirement

Pipe and slippers for venerable algorithm

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The ageing Data Encryption Standard (DES) is no longer secure enough for use by government and should be replaced by Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) instead, according to a key US government standards agency.

The National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) yesterday proposed to withdraw the Federal Information Processing Standard for DES, effectively pensioning off the venerable old algorithm. Interested parties have until 9 September to respond to NIST's retirement plans.

DES has been a key US government (and therefore industry) security technology since 1977 but now its beginning to crack up - it just can't keep up with these whippersnappers in Unis with their new, fancy computers. NIST notes that DES is now vulnerable to brute force attack - thanks to advances in parallel computing.

DES's shortcomings have been apparent for some time, so NIST's retirement plans will come as no great surprise to cryptographers and other members of the code-breaking community. The review of DES that led up to NIST's recommendation to drop its use by Federal agencies reached an inescapable conclusion.

Even though NIST will sanction the use of Triple-DES even after DES is sent off to pasture, the agency is encouraging Federal agencies to implement the faster and stronger Advanced Encryption Standard. ®

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