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+ - NSA Still Ahead in Crypto - But Not by Much

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Hugh Pickens
Hugh Pickens writes "Network World reports that former National Security Agency technical director Brian Snow told the RSA Conference that cryptographers for the NSA have been losing ground to their counterparts in universities and commercial security vendors for 20 years but still maintain the upper hand in the sophistication of their crypto schemes and in their ability to decrypt. "I do believe NSA is still ahead, but not by much — a handful of years," says Snow. "I think we've got the edge still." Snow added that that in the 1980s there was a huge gap between what the NSA could do and what commercial encryption technology was capable of. "Now we are very close together and moving very slowly forward in a mature field." The NSA has one key advantage with their deep staff of Ph.D. mathematicians and other cryptographic experts who work on securing traffic and breaking codes. "We cheat. We get to read what [academics] publish. We do not publish what we research," says Snow. Snow's claim of NSA superiority seemed to rankle some members at the conference. Adi Shamir, the "S" in the RSA encryption algorithm and a computer science professor at Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, says when the titles of papers in NSA technical journals were declassified up to 1983, there were none that included public key encryption. "That demonstrates that NSA was behind," says Shamir although Snow replied that when technologies are developed separately in parallel, the developers don't necessarily use the same terms for them."
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NSA Still Ahead in Crypto - But Not by Much

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