Researchers Find Weakness in World's Toughest Encryption Standard

A group of Microsoft researchers announced recently that they had cracked a version of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), the world’s toughest encryption mechanism. Though you might not be aware of it, AES is all around you. Not only is it used in disk encryption systems, but it also secures online transactions, wireless networks and even top-secret government documents. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide come into contact with the encryption, so finding a vulnerability is a bit troubling for almost every sector.

“[This] is the first theoretical break of the Advanced Encryption Standard – the de facto worldwide encryption standard,” said Andrey Bogdanov, one of the researchers who worked out the method of breaking the code. His research partners were Dmitry Khovratovich and Christian Rechberger.

The mechanism came to the forefront as a response to a late-20th-century call by the National Institute of Standards and Technology for an encryption that could protect top-secret documents. After a lengthy review process, NIST accepted declared this version, nicknamed Rijndael, as that standard, certifying it for use in the federal government in 2002.

The key – that is, the information an authorized person can use to decrypt the protected information – can vary in length, with 128, 192 and 256 being typical key lengths. Longer keys provide greater security because each extra digit adds another variable.

After working for years, the researchers found they were able to break the code four times easier than was previously thought possible. But even still, the statistical probability of being able to ascertain the correct key is extremely thin: According to Bogdanov, a trillion computers each testing a billion keys per second would take more than two billion years to discover an AES-128 key.

For this reason, Bogdanov said, we shouldn’t worry about the standard’s robustness. “I do not expect our particular attack to impose any practical threat in applications using AES,” he said. “It is more of scientific value.”

Security blogger Bruce Schneier agrees. “What we're learning is that the safety margin of AES is much less than previously believed,” he wrote on his blog. “And while there is no reason to scrap AES in favor of another algorithm, [NIST] should increase the number of rounds of all three AES variants.”

So don’t worry, your Wi-Fi is still safe. But attacks are always increasing in precision, so sometime in the future, the AES may have to undergo a makeover.

About the Author

Laura Williams is content development editor for Security Products magazine.

Featured

  • Cloud Adoption Gives Way to Hybrid Deployments

    Cloud adoption is growing at an astonishing rate, with Gartner forecasting that worldwide public cloud end-user spending will approach $600 billion by the end of this year—an increase of more than 21% over 2022. McKinsey believes that number could eclipse $1 trillion by the end of the decade, further underscoring the industry’s exponential growth. Read Now

  • AI on the Edge

    Discussions about the merits (or misgivings) around AI (artificial intelligence) are everywhere. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find an article or product literature without mention of it in our industry. If you’re not using AI by now in some capacity, congratulations may be in order since most people are using it in some form daily even without realizing it. Read Now

  • Securing the Future

    In an increasingly turbulent world, chief security officers (CSOs) are facing a multitude of challenges that threaten the stability of businesses worldwide. Read Now

    • Guard Services
  • Security Entrances Move to Center Stage

    Most organizations want to show a friendly face to the public. In today’s world, however, the need to keep people safe and secure has become a prime directive when designing and building facilities of all kinds. Fortunately, there is no need to construct a fortress-like entry that provides that high level of security. Today’s secured entry solutions make it possible to create a welcoming, attractive look and feel at the entry without compromising security. It is for this reason that security entrances have moved to the mainstream. Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

Webinars

New Products

  • PE80 Series

    PE80 Series by SARGENT / ED4000/PED5000 Series by Corbin Russwin

    ASSA ABLOY, a global leader in access solutions, has announced the launch of two next generation exit devices from long-standing leaders in the premium exit device market: the PE80 Series by SARGENT and the PED4000/PED5000 Series by Corbin Russwin. These new exit devices boast industry-first features that are specifically designed to provide enhanced safety, security and convenience, setting new standards for exit solutions. The SARGENT PE80 and Corbin Russwin PED4000/PED5000 Series exit devices are engineered to meet the ever-evolving needs of modern buildings. Featuring the high strength, security and durability that ASSA ABLOY is known for, the new exit devices deliver several innovative, industry-first features in addition to elegant design finishes for every opening. 3

  • Camden CM-221 Series Switches

    Camden CM-221 Series Switches

    Camden Door Controls is pleased to announce that, in response to soaring customer demand, it has expanded its range of ValueWave™ no-touch switches to include a narrow (slimline) version with manual override. This override button is designed to provide additional assurance that the request to exit switch will open a door, even if the no-touch sensor fails to operate. This new slimline switch also features a heavy gauge stainless steel faceplate, a red/green illuminated light ring, and is IP65 rated, making it ideal for indoor or outdoor use as part of an automatic door or access control system. ValueWave™ no-touch switches are designed for easy installation and trouble-free service in high traffic applications. In addition to this narrow version, the CM-221 & CM-222 Series switches are available in a range of other models with single and double gang heavy-gauge stainless steel faceplates and include illuminated light rings. 3

  • Compact IP Video Intercom

    Viking’s X-205 Series of intercoms provide HD IP video and two-way voice communication - all wrapped up in an attractive compact chassis. 3