Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

It will take a long time to find a new algorithm and get it ready for general use, so NIST decided not to wait until SHA-2 was actually compromised. Burr notes that SHA-1, an older hash algorithm that NIST no longer recommends because of weaknesses uncovered by Wang, “is more damaged than destroyed,” since a great deal of computation is still needed to find a collision. “We decided we had to rethink the whole thing,” Burr adds, “because we were just learning more and more about [how hash functions can be attacked], a lot of it disquieting.”

Beyond relieving worries about security, a new algorithm can take advantage of new trends in computing, such as dual-core processors, making it faster. “Hashes are the workhorse of cryptography,” Schneier says, “so performance is critical.”

NIST has received 64 entries for the competition and is looking for ways to narrow down the list. When NIST publishes the short list of entries at the end of this month, cryptographers the world over will begin analyzing them. This promises to be a lengthy process. “For many of the good submissions, discussions about their security will become more subtle than just talking about broken versus nonbroken,” says Christian Rechberger, a lecturer in cryptography at the Institute for Applied Information Processing and Communications, in Austria, and another competition entrant. “For this discussion, the time until the planned decision in 2012 is definitely needed.”

Brian Gladman, a U.K. cryptographer, says that the list of researchers who have submitted algorithms for the competition is impressive. It includes submissions from luminaries such as MIT computer-science professor Ron Rivest, who has already written several highly influential hash functions, and Joan Daemen, one of the designers of a widely-used encryption standard known as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

Rechberger helps maintain the SHA-3 Zoo, a website that collects entries and related analysis. Ultimately, there could be several finalists that remain unbroken at the end of the competition. At the end, the winner will be chosen based on other considerations, such as its speed. For the coming months, however, analysis of entries will do much to advance the understanding of hash functions. And, more dramatically, cryptographers will begin breaking one another’s algorithms.

5 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credit: Technology Review

Tagged: Computing, Communications, security, algorithms, hacker, math

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me