IT&E Licenses Code for New Encryption Standard

Posted: August 10, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

As the National Institute of Standards and Technology nears formal adoption of a new national computer encryption standard, George Mason’s Cryptography and Network Security Implementations Laboratory in the School of Information Technology and Engineering (IT&E) is ready to license a hardware description language code that implements the new standard and can significantly speed up the encryption process.

The existing American Data Encryption Standard (DES) has been in effect since 1977, and will soon be replaced with a new Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). The new standard, which will protect communication over all kinds of computer networks well into the next century, will be implemented by the U.S. government and many businesses nationally and internationally. The standard is used to encrypt information for such electronic applications as funds transfer, Internet credit card transactions, and even cell phone technology.

Says Kris Gaj, director of the cryptography lab, “Our project was to perform a comparison of the five final AES candidate algorithms from the standpoint of the hardware implementation efficiency. We implemented these algorithms using FPGAs–field programmable gate arrays–and found a large difference in the speed of implementation among the finalists.”

With those results, the lab developed a hardware description language code that could be programmed onto an FPGA, a reconfigurable device mounted on a small circuit board, to accelerate the implementation of AES. The lab’s design can achieve encryption speeds in the range of several gigabits per second. Gaj says only a few other research groups have published articles on similar work and “our design is faster and the least expensive.”

The lab has a patent pending on the implementation and is working with the Office of Technology Transfer to license it for commercial use. For a complete technical description of the design, see the web site.

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