Feeds

RSA comes out swinging at claims it took NSA's $10m to backdoor crypto

In summary: Yes, the biz worked with spies. But it knew about a gaping hole? No, siree!

Security for virtualized datacentres

RSA has hit back at allegations stemming from Edward Snowden's latest whistleblowing – specifically, the claim that it secretly took US$10m from the NSA in exchange for using the deliberately knackered Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator (Dual EC DRBG) in its encryption products.

The EMC-owned security outfit said it started using Dual EC DRBG by default in 2004, sometime before the generator was standardised. By 2007 the algorithm was found to effectively have a backdoor in it that weakened the strength of any encryption that relied on it, making life easier for snoops. In September 2013, RSA told its customers to stop using the algorithm.

The NSA, which championed Dual EC DRBG, is separately accused of weakening the random number generator during its development.

In a strongly yet carefully worded blog post today, RSA said “we categorically deny [the] allegation” that it "entered into a 'secret contract' with the NSA to incorporate a known flawed random number generator".

The biz goes on to offer four reasons for its choice of random number generator, namely:

  • We made the decision to use Dual EC DRBG as the default in BSAFE toolkits in 2004, in the context of an industry-wide effort to develop newer, stronger methods of encryption. At that time, the NSA had a trusted role in the community-wide effort to strengthen, not weaken, encryption.
  • This algorithm is only one of multiple choices available within BSAFE toolkits, and users have always been free to choose whichever one best suits their needs.
  • We continued using the algorithm as an option within BSAFE toolkits as it gained acceptance as a NIST standard and because of its value in FIPS compliance. When concern surfaced around the algorithm in 2007, we continued to rely upon NIST as the arbiter of that discussion.
  • When NIST issued new guidance recommending no further use of this algorithm in September 2013, we adhered to that guidance, communicated that recommendation to customers and discussed the change openly in the media.

The post, which avoids discussing whether or not the company actually took the NSA's $10m, concluded with the following statement:

RSA, as a security company, never divulges details of customer engagements, but we also categorically state that we have never entered into any contract or engaged in any project with the intention of weakening RSA’s products, or introducing potential ‘backdoors’ into our products for anyone’s use.

Meanwhile, Joseph Menn, the Reuters writer who broke the original news on Friday, stands by his story. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.