Cryptography involves techniques for exchanging secure messages even in the presence of adversaries. As our electronic networks grow increasingly open and interconnected, it is crucial to have cryptographic standards, algorithms and encryption methods that provide a foundation for e-commerce transactions, mobile device conversations and other exchanges of data. NIST has fostered the development of cryptographic techniques and technology for nearly 50 years.
Cryptography is a continually evolving field that drives research and innovation. The Data Encryption Standard (DES), published in 1977 as a Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS), was groundbreaking for its time but would fall far short of the levels of protection needed today. NIST continues to lead public collaborations for developing modern cryptography, including:
Block ciphers, which encrypt data in block-sized chunks (rather than one bit at a time) and are useful in encrypting large amounts of data.
Cryptographic hash algorithms, which create short digests, or hashes, of the information being protected. These digests find use in many security applications including digital signatures, the development of which NIST also leads.
Key establishment, employed in public-key cryptography to establish the data protection keys used by the communicating parties.
Post-quantum cryptography, intended to be secure against both quantum and classical computers and deployable without drastic changes to existing communication protocols and networks.
Lightweight cryptography, which could be used in small devices such as Internet of Things devices and other resource-limited platforms that would be overtaxed by current cryptographic algorithms.
Privacy-enhancing cryptography, intended to allow research on private data without revealing aspects of the data that could be used to identify its owner.