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NIST Selects ‘Lightweight Cryptography’ Algorithms to Protect Small Devices

NIST: “Lightweight electronics, meet the heavyweight champion for protecting your information: Security experts at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have announced a victor in their program to find a worthy defender of data generated by small devices. The winner, a group of cryptographic algorithms called Ascon, will be published as NIST’s lightweight cryptography standard later in 2023. The chosen algorithms are designed to protect information created and transmitted by the Internet of Things (IoT), including its myriad tiny sensors and actuators. They are also designed for other miniature technologies such as implanted medical devices, stress detectors inside roads and bridges, and keyless entry fobs for vehicles. Devices like these need “lightweight cryptography” — protection that uses the limited amount of electronic resources they possess. According to NIST computer scientist Kerry McKay, the newly selected algorithms should be appropriate for most forms of tiny tech.  “The world is moving toward using small devices for lots of tasks ranging from sensing to identification to machine control, and because these small devices have limited resources, they need security that has a compact implementation,” she said. “These algorithms should cover most devices that have these sorts of resource constraints.” To determine the strongest and most efficient lightweight algorithms, NIST held a development program that took several years, first communicating with industry and other organizations to understand their needs and then requesting potential solutions from the world’s cryptography community in 2018. After receiving 57 submissions, McKay and mathematician Meltem Sönmez Turan managed a multi-round public review process in which cryptographers examined and attempted to find weaknesses in the candidates, eventually whittling them down to 10 finalists before selecting the winner.”

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