NSA cryptography

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The vast majority of the National Security Agency's work on encryption is classified, but from time to time NSA participates in standards processes or otherwise publishes information about its cryptographic algorithms. The NSA has categorized encryption items into four product types, and algorithms into two suites. The following is a brief and incomplete summary of public knowledge about NSA algorithms and protocols.

Type 1 Product[edit]

A Type 1 Product refers to an NSA endorsed classified or controlled cryptographic item for classified or sensitive U.S. government information, including cryptographic equipment, assembly or component classified or certified by NSA for encrypting and decrypting classified and sensitive national security information when appropriately keyed.[1]

Name Type Specification Use Equipment (incomplete list)
ACCORDIAN [sic] R21-TECH-13-00, "ACCORDIAN 3.0 Specification" (August 2000) AIM (1999 and 2004 brochures), SafeXcel-3340, PSIAM [2]
AES (256-bit keys only) Block cipher FIPS 197 Numerous Numerous
BATON Block cipher Various PKCS#11, CDSA/CSSM, AIM (1999 and 2004 brochures), CYPRIS, APCO Project 25, MYK-85, Fortezza Plus, SecNet-11, Sierra, SafeXcel-3340, PSIAM [2]
CARDHOLDER Satellite uplink command encryption CYPRIS, KI-17, U-AYJ Flight Decrypt Chip (Cardholder), Flight Encrypt Chip (Cardholder), MYK-16, CXS-810, CXS-2000, MCU-100, MCU-600
CARIBOU Satellite uplink command encryption U-TXZ, MYK-15A
CRAYON AIM (2004 brochure), CYPRIS (4 modes)
FASTHASH Cryptographic hash function MISSI Type 1 hash PKCS #11, CDSA/CSSM
FIREFLY / Enhanced FIREFLY EKMS public-key cooperative key generation AIM (2004), SafeXcel-3340, SecNet54, ViaSat KG-25x, PSIAM [2]
HAVE QUICK Antijam, LPI/LPD airborne voice communication CYPRIS
JACKNIFE AIM (2004) for IFF Mode 5
JOSEKI R21-TECH-0062-92, "JOSEKI-1, A Bootstrap Procedures" (Oct. 1992) (also R21-TECH-13-97, R21-TECH-13-98) Protection of secret algorithms in firmware AIM, PSIAM [2]
JUNIPER Block cipher PKCS #11, CDSA/CSSM
KEESEE AIM (1999 and 2004 brochures), CYPRIS, PSIAM [2]
Mark XII IFF IFF secondary radar AIM (2004 brochure)
MAYFLY Asymmetric-key algorithm PKCS #11, CDSA/CSSM
MEDLEY R21-TECH-30-01, "MEDLEY Implementation Standard" (Nov. 2001) AIM (2004), SecNet 54, SafeXcel-3340, ViaSat KG25x, PSIAM [2]
PEGASUS Satellite telemetry and mission data downlinks KG-227, KG-228, KI-17, U-BLW Pegasus Space Microcircuit Chip, U-BLX Pegasus Ground Microcircuit Chip, MYK-17, CXS-810, CXS-2000, MCU-100, MCU-600
PHALANX AIM (1999 and 2004 brochures), CYPRIS (PHALANX I and PHALANX II)
SAVILLE Low-bandwidth voice (and sometimes data) encryption AIM (1999 and 2004 brochures), CYPRIS (2 modes), Windster (SAVILLE I), VINSON
VALLOR TTY broadcasts to submarines AIM (2004)
WALBURN High-bandwidth link encryption AIM (2004), KG-81/94/194/95
PADSTONE CYPRIS (2 modes), Windster, Indictor
WEASEL SafeXcel-3340

Type 2 Product[edit]

A Type 2 Product refers to an NSA endorsed unclassified cryptographic equipment, assemblies or components for sensitive but unclassified U.S. government information.

Name Type Specification Use Equipment (incomplete list)
CORDOBA CYPRIS, Windster, Indictor
KEA Asymmetric-key algorithm R21-Tech-23-94, "Key Exchange Algorithm (KEA)" Key exchange and digital signature algorithm for Fortezza, etc. Fortezza, Fortezza Plus, Palladium Secure Modem
SKIPJACK Block cipher R21-Tech-044-91, "SKIPJACK" Confidentiality algorithm for Fortezza, etc. Fortezza, Fortezza Plus, Palladium Secure Modem

Type 3 Product[edit]

Unclassified cryptographic equipment, assembly, or component used, when appropriately keyed, for encrypting or decrypting unclassified sensitive U.S. Government or commercial information, and to protect systems requiring protection mechanisms consistent with standard commercial practices. A Type 3 Algorithm refers to NIST endorsed algorithms, registered and FIPS published, for sensitive but unclassified U.S. government and commercial information.

Name Type Specification Use Equipment (incomplete list)
DES Data Encryption Standard Block cipher FIPS 46-3 Ubiquitous Ubiquitous
AES Advanced Encryption Standard Block cipher FIPS 197 Numerous Numerous
DSA Digital Signature Algorithm Digital signature system FIPS 186 Numerous Numerous
SHA Secure Hash Algorithm Cryptographic hash function FIPS 180-2 Ubiquitous Ubiquitous

Type 4 Product[edit]

A Type 4 Algorithm refers to algorithms that are registered by the NIST but are not FIPS published. Unevaluated commercial cryptographic equipment, assemblies, or components that are neither NSA nor NIST certified for any Government usage.

Algorithm Suites[edit]

Suite A[edit]

A set of NSA unpublished algorithms that is intended for highly sensitive communication and critical authentication systems.

Suite B[edit]

A set of NSA endorsed cryptographic algorithms for use as an interoperable cryptographic base for both unclassified information and most classified information. Suite B was announced on 16 February 2005, and phased out in 2016.[3]

Commercial National Security Algorithm Suite[edit]

A set of cryptographic algorithms promulgated by the National Security Agency as a replacement for NSA Suite B Cryptography until post-quantum cryptography standards are promulgated.

Quantum resistant suite[edit]

In August 2015, NSA announced that it is planning to transition "in the not distant future" to a new cipher suite that is resistant to quantum attacks. "Unfortunately, the growth of elliptic curve use has bumped up against the fact of continued progress in the research on quantum computing, necessitating a re-evaluation of our cryptographic strategy." NSA advised: "For those partners and vendors that have not yet made the transition to Suite B algorithms, we recommend not making a significant expenditure to do so at this point but instead to prepare for the upcoming quantum resistant algorithm transition."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Information Assurance Glossary"; CNSS Instruction No. 4009 National Information Assurance Glossary
  2. ^ a b c d e f ViaSat Programmable Scalable Information Assurance Model (PSIAM)
  3. ^ Cook, John (2019-05-23). "NSA recommendations | algorithms to use until PQC". www.johndcook.com. Retrieved 2020-02-28.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "NSA preps quantum-resistant algorithms to head off crypto-apocalypse". Ars Technica. August 21, 2015.