SDV INTERNATIONAL joins national security round table with NSA, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman to discuss SPECK and SIMON...

SDV INTERNATIONAL attends the first public (unclassified) homeland security-focused event for SPECK and SIMON, presented by the National Security Agency’s (NSA) Trusted Systems Research Group. SPECK and SIMON are possibly the most studied ‘new’ ciphers of the past two years.  SPECK and SIMON, both symmetric block ciphers, may become a standard for the encryption of data on small devices in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT). At the event, the NSA’s researchers, mathematicians and a lawyer revealed the largest collection of studies made by non-governmental researchers on any ‘new’ cryptography standard during the past two years.


During the presentation, in a side-by-side comparison, SPECK was compared to AES-128 to demonstrate comparable mathematical characteristics. The block size and key size of the SPECK comparison was the same as AES-128 example, yet the slides that showed the lines of code for the AES-128 example required 7 slides while the lines of code for the SPECK example required only 2 lines of code, on only 1 slide (less than 140 characters).  AES was created almost 20 years ago, and the presenters discussed their mathematical approaches that differed from the Sblock approaches often used by academic cryptographers. The presenters suggested that SPECK (optimized for software) and SIMON (optimized for hardware) were inspired by earlier work with Whitfield Diffie.


The event was attended by about 20 industry executives and subject matter experts, including Microsoft, Northrop Grumman and SDV INTERNATIONAL. The panel discussed a variety of use cases related to SPECK and SIMON, including possible applications for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems (e.g., smart concrete), automobiles, toys, appliances, radio frequency identification (RFID) (e.g., microdot), space technology, wearable military applications, and wearable medical devices.  


In the agency’s description of the ciphers, they use the expression ‘lightweight’ because the earliest applications involve very small devices. The term may cause some to think of the ciphers as something weak, with the boxing weight class in mind. The agency also made reference to the ciphers being ‘analyzable’, which refers to the high number of studies that have been completed, but people making a cursory review of the topic may associate this expression with a potential for unintended audiences to decipher data.


A lot must happen before SPECK and SIMON will be widely adopted by industry and government. What is certain, these ciphers are beginning to get a lot of attention from industry, and they are said to be moving up on the list of priorities at the National Institutes of Standards and Technologies (NIST), and so it seems quite possible in the age of OiT that this cryptography may become a new standard.


The event was held at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., the historic club frequented by the likes of Albert Einstein. For more information about this topic, please contact us.