Home Security NIST values AES at US$250 billion

Research published recently by NIST has found an extensive economic advantage from the use of AES.

Following a world-wide competition to select the next "Advanced Encryption Standard" on 2 October 2000, NIST announced its proposal for the replacement standard: Rijndael (pronounced Rhine-doll), an algorithm that was submitted by two cryptographers from Belgium. This choice was finally approved by the US Government in November 2001.

Once selected, Rijndael was renamed AES and, in accordance with the selection process, the source algorithms were released into the public domain for detailed scrutiny, thus demonstrating that knowing how an encryption system works only permits people to agree on its security, not how to break it.

Since its release, AES has been used to protect everything from classified data and bank transactions to online shopping and social media apps. It forms the underlying security every time anyone accesses a website with the https designation.

In a recent report NIST researchers have analysed the economic impact of AES in the past 16 years (and for earlier years under previous encryption standards) and have determined that the benefit-to-cost ratio for the AES program was conservatively estimated at 29-to-1, while for the whole economy, the benefit-to-cost was assessed at 1976-to-1. These figures were based on an estimated economic advantage of US$250 billion for having a secure and successful encryption regime.

"This outstanding return on investment exemplifies the economic value of federal research and development, for the private sector and for the broader American economy," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST director Walter Copan. "It also demonstrates how bringing together the private and public sectors effectively to address a challenge can result in positive impacts on US commerce."

Data for the report was sourced from surveys of government and private industry users of encryption along with various organisations that integrate encryption into hardware and software solutions.

"AES has been tremendously successful at helping to establish trust in IT systems around the world," said Charles Romine, director of NIST's Information Technology Laboratory. "We are pleased with how it has stood the test of time in its ability to provide security in a wide range of commercial products and public and private systems."

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