This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

May I Have the Encrypted Envelope, Please
Oct 03 2000 12:00 AM PDT

The results are in - the U.S. chooses an encryption standard based on code from two Flemish masters.

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology picked a winner in its three-year competition to update the 1977 standard for securing sensitive government communications. The new Advanced Encryption Standard will be based on code from two Flemish cryptographers. The tech-leaning press covered the announcement, but much of the mainstream gave it a pass - apparently cryptography doesn't make news the way it did when the Feds were struggling to limit it.

The winning algorithm is named "Rijndael," an amalgam of the names of its inventors. All outlets helpfully provided a guide to pronouncing "Rhine-doll."

Three of the five finalist candidates in the AES contest were of American origin. The New York Times' John Schwartz was the only reporter who thought to call one of the losing U.S. entrants, and high-profile cryptographer Bruce Schneier obliged with a gracious comment on the smoothness and fairness of NIST's competition. Schwartz touched on the "raised eyebrows" NIST may cause by choosing to base a U.S. standard on the work of offshore cryptographers. Bruce Heiman of Americans for Consumer Privacy told the Times, "It certainly is further proof ... that encryption technology is international, and unilateral export controls are counterproductive."

Much of the coverage drew heavily on the NIST press release. Contributors to the Slashdot discussion on Rijndael provided much deeper background and pointers to all the gearhead details. - Keith Dawson

Commerce Department Announces Winner of Global Information Security Competition
National Institute of Standards and Technology

Belgian Algorithm Becomes New American Encryption Standard
Leuven Catholic University Department of Electrical Engineering

U.S. Selects a New Encryption Technique
New York Times
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Belgian Code Crowned New Security Standard (Reuters)

U.S. Picks New Crypto Standard
Wired News

U.S. Encryption Standard Draws Near

Rijndael Picked for AES