After four years of testing, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced its favorite “lightweight cryptography” encryption method, designed to run on low-power IoT devices.
Connected IoT devices such as wearables, smart home gadgets, and even vehicle-to-vehicle technologies are all around us, and the key to their success is their small size. However, this comes with its own challenges, including less powerful chips than we typically see in a smartphone or computer. They are less able to handle traditionally heavier encryption methods, hence the introduction of the new standard.
Optimized encryption will allow smaller devices to handle sensitive personal data, which could be great for wearable users who want access to their health data, for example.
The program included a total of 57 proposals, which were later reduced to 10 finalists (opens in a new tab). The announcement explains:
“The decision was difficult because most of the finalists demonstrated performance advantages over NIST standards on various target platforms without introducing security concerns.”
Ultimately, ASCON was selected (opens in a new tab) for its flexibility, energy efficiency and ability to run smoothly on less powerful hardware. Its longevity is also deserved, existing since 2014 and withstanding “years of research by cryptographers”.
NIST computer scientist Kerry McKay, explained (opens in a new tab) that “one of the ASCON variants offers a measure of resistance to the type of attack a powerful quantum computer can carry out,” indicating impressive robustness.
That said, NIST has already done that started work on quantum secure public-key cryptographic algorithmswhich opened with 82 proposals.
This means that in the future there will be a significant increase in the number of devices that will be able to securely share information as the era of seamless connectivity approaches.