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Data Encryption Standard - this page is a stub

The Data Encryption Standard, commonly abbreviated to DES, is a symmetric-key block cipher for the encryption of electronic data. Although the algorithm is no longer considered secure, it was widely used during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, for example for the protection of bank cards.

At the time it was known as FIPS 46. In the form of Triple-DES, 1 the algorithm was thought to be secure (2017), although there were theoretical attacks. 2 Following the introduction of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) in 2001, DES was officially withdrawn as a FIPS 3 in 2004.

  1. Also known as TDES, 3DES, TDEA and Triple DEA,
  2. Not practically feasible at the time. 3DES was withdrawn in 2017.
  3. FIPS = Federal Information Processing Standard.  Wikipedia

DES devices on this website
Hand-held consumer communication terminal with crypto facilities
Nokia Partiosanomalaite (PARSA) electronic message unit (EMU)
Motorola SECTEL 2500/3500 with DES (NSA Type 3 encryption)
Motorola Saber II secure portable radio
Type 3 Secure Telephone
Gretacoder 715 Message Authenticator
Gretacoder 720, extremely secure DES encryptor for SWIFT transactions
DES was developed in the early 1970s at IBM, and was based on an earlier design of a block cipher by Horst Feistel. Following the invitation of the US National Bureau of Standards (NBS, now: NIST) to propose a candidate for the protection of sensitive unclassified government data, IBM submitted the DES algorithm. In 1976, after consultation with the US National Security Agency (NSA), the NBS eventually selected a slightly modified version of it, which was strengthened against differential cryptanalysis, but weakened against brute force attacks [1]. It was published as an official Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS 46.3) for the United States in 1977.

For many years, DES was the defacto standard for the protection of bank cards — commonly protected by a PIN code — and financial transactions via ATM machines, point of sale cash registers and the secure/trusted worldwide interbank communication system SWIFT. For many years, the NSA has tried to prevent DES from being used in consumer communication devices.

Today, DES is no longer considered secure. It was officially withdrawn as a FIPS on 19 May 2005. The 3DES variant however, remains to be approved by NIST until 2030 for sensitive government information. Systems used for secure financial transactions (e.g. SWIFT), have meanwhile been replaced by more secure alternatives.
DES in a consumer product
Intervention by the NSA

In 1979, the Dutch company Text Lite was developing a hand-held text terminal — a so-called pocket telex — and wanted to use DES for the encryption of text-based messages. Text Lite requested the DES specification from the NBS, and got it for as little as US$ 8. The device was released the next year as the PX-1000, and was also marketed by Philips and other companies.

The PX-1000 was an instant hit and was soon adopted by journalists, business men and anyone else who had a need for confidential correspondence, including criminals. Apart from Philips, it was soon picked up by other leading names, such as Siemens, Ericsson and Alcatel.

In late 1983, the NSA began noticing the device, and expressed its concern about the availability of DES to the general public, in an affordable device. They subsequently persuaded Philips to buy the entire PX-1000 stock and replace DES by an alternative algorithm, supplied by the NSA.

In the following months the existing stock of 12,000 PX-1000 units was sold to the NSA, 1 along with 20,000 firmware PROMs that had already been manufactured, for a total of NLG 16.6 million (~ EUR 7.5 million). A year later, the PX-1000 was re-released, but this time with the alternative NSA-algorithm. It is one of the first examples of NSA intervention in the Netherlands.

 More about the PX-1000

  1. Not directly, but via a cover company by the name of Reynolds Associates.

  1. Wikipedia, Data Encryption Standard
    Retrieved July 2017.
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Crypto Museum. Created: Monday 03 July 2017. Last changed: Monday, 15 January 2024 - 17:18 CET.
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