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Who really broke Enigma?

October 16, 2012 at 8:28 am PST

Some of the best conversations happen in private exchanges and I often wish we could all benefit more broadly.  This most recent conversation was instructive in and of itself but it also pointed out a level of transparency both Jimmy Ray and I prefer.  So hopefully it goes to say -- we welcome your input! We certainly don’t get it right all the time!

Episode 119 featured Next Generation encryption and we mistakenly attributed Great Britain with breaking Enigma. One of our Cisco fans from Warsaw, Bartlomiej (Bartek) Michalowski, sent us a note.

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Next Generation Encryption Meets Tomorrow’s Security Challenges

Cisco’s early adoption and implementation of Next Generation Encryption (NGE) is paving the way for the next decade of cryptographic security. NGE provides a complete algorithm suite, comprised of authenticated encryption, digital signatures, key establishment and cryptographic hashing. These components provide high levels of security and scalability, aimed at setting the standard for the next 10 years of encryption.

The next generation of encryption technologies meets the evolving needs of agencies and enterprises by utilizing modern, but well reviewed and tested cryptographic algorithms and protocols.  As an example, Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) is used in place of the more traditional Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA) algorithms. By upgrading these algorithms, NGE cryptography prevents hackers from having a single low-point in the system to exploit and efficiently scales to high data rates, while providing all of the security of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cipher

As computing power exponentially increases over time, according to Moore’s Law, attackers have access to more powerful tools to crack encryption keys. However, NGE is capable of staying ahead of this curve by improving security and robustness of Cisco’s already market leading trusted solutions to meet emerging global standards into the future.

Check out the video below to learn more about NGE:

TechWiseTV 119: Next Generation Encryption:

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Next Generation Encryption Algorithms

Over the years, numerous cryptographic algorithms have been developed and used in many different protocols and functions. Cryptography is by no means static. Steady advances in computing and in the science of cryptanalysis have made it necessary to continually adopt newer, stronger algorithms, and larger key sizes. Older algorithms are supported in current products to ensure backward compatibility and interoperability. However, some older algorithms and key sizes no longer provide adequate protection from modern threats and should be replaced.

Over the years, some cryptographic algorithms have been deprecated, “broken,” attacked, or proven to be insecure. There have been research publications that compromise or affect the perceived security of almost all algorithms by using reduced step attacks or others (known plaintext, bit flip, and more). Additionally, every year advances in computing reduce the cost of information processing and data storage to retain effective security. Because of Moore’s law, and a similar empirical law for storage costs, symmetric cryptographic keys must grow by 1 bit every 18 months. For an encryption system to have a useful shelf life and securely interoperate with other devices throughout its life span, the system should provide security for 10 or more years into the future. The use of good cryptography is more important now than ever before because of the very real threat of well-funded and knowledgeable attackers.

Next Generation Encryption (NGE) technologies satisfy the security requirements described above while using cryptographic algorithms that scale better. For more information on Legacy, Acceptable, Recommended and NGE algorithms that should be avoided or used in your networks, you can refer to our latest Whitepaper.

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Next Generation Encryption

A transition in cryptographic technologies is underway. New algorithms for encryption, authentication, digital signatures, and key exchange are needed to meet escalating security and performance requirements. Many of the algorithms that are in extensive use today cannot scale well to meet these needs. RSA signatures and DH key exchange are increasingly inefficient as security levels rise, and CBC encryption performs poorly at high data rates. An encryption system such as an IPsec Virtual Private Network uses many different component algorithms, and the level of security that it provides is limited by the lowest security level of each of those components. What we need is a complete algorithm suite in which each component provides a consistently high level of security and can scale well to high throughput and high numbers of connections. The next generation of encryption technologies meets this need by using Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) to replace RSA and DH, and using Galois/Counter Mode (GCM) of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) block cipher for high-speed authenticated encryption. More on these algorithms below, but first, some good news: the new ISR Integrated Services Module brings these next-generation encryption (NGE) technologies to IPsec Virtual Private Networks, providing a security level of 128 bits or more. These technologies are future proof: the use of NGE enables a system to meet the security requirements of the next decade, and to interoperate with future products that leverage NGE to meet scalability requirements. NGE is based on IETF standards, and meets the government requirements for cryptography stipulated in FIPS-140.

NGE uses new crypto algorithms because they will scale better going forward. This is analogous to the way that jets replaced propeller planes; incremental improvements in propeller-driven aircraft are always possible, but it was necessary to adopt turbojets to achieve significant advances in speed and efficiency.

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