Details Reveal Crypto Standard Controlled By NSA; And How Canada Helped
from the international-cooperation dept
After the revelations of how the NSA basically authored a crypto standard surreptitiously with obligatory backdoors, plenty of people started exploring exactly which standard it was — and called on the various reporters with access to Snowden’s documents to come clean, mainly to protect people who were now using insecure crypto. Buried in a blog post that focuses more on the NIST’s non-response to the news, the NY Times finally revealed both what standard it was, the Dual EC DRBG standard, and how Canadian intelligence basically was the cover, helping to hide the NSA’s efforts:
But internal memos leaked by a former N.S.A. contractor, Edward Snowden, suggest that the N.S.A. generated one of the random number generators used in a 2006 N.I.S.T. standard — called the Dual EC DRBG standard — which contains a back door for the N.S.A. In publishing the standard, N.I.S.T. acknowledged “contributions” from N.S.A., but not primary authorship.
Internal N.S.A. memos describe how the agency subsequently worked behind the scenes to push the same standard on the International Organization for Standardization. “The road to developing this standard was smooth once the journey began,” one memo noted. “However, beginning the journey was a challenge in finesse.”
At the time, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment ran the standards process for the international organization, but classified documents describe how ultimately the N.S.A. seized control. “After some behind-the-scenes finessing with the head of the Canadian national delegation and with C.S.E., the stage was set for N.S.A. to submit a rewrite of the draft,” the memo notes. “Eventually, N.S.A. became the sole editor.”
That same article notes that people inside NIST “feel betrayed by their colleagues at the NSA,” but I wonder if NIST will ever be able to regain any real sense of trust with the crypto community.