RSA comes out swinging, denies taking NSA’s $10m to backdoor its crypto
RSA has categorically denied allegations stemming from Edward Snowden’s latest whistleblowing – specifically, the claim that it took US$10m from the NSA in exchange for using the “known flawed” Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator (Dual EC DRBG) in its products.
The EMC-owned security outfit said it started using Dual EC DRBG by default in 2004. But, by 2007, the algorithm was found to effectively have a backdoor that weakened the strength of any encryption that relied on it, making life easier for snoops. The NSA, which championed Dual EC DRBG, is accused of orchestrating the derailment of the random number generator during its development.
In a strongly worded blog post today, RSA said “we categorically deny [the] allegation” it knew Dual EC DRBG was deliberately knackered, and goes on to offer four reasons for its choice of random number generator, namely:
- We made the decision to use Dual EC DRBG as the default in BSAFE toolkits in 2004, in the context of an industry-wide effort to develop newer, stronger methods of encryption. At that time, the NSA had a trusted role in the community-wide effort to strengthen, not weaken, encryption.
- This algorithm is only one of multiple choices available within BSAFE toolkits, and users have always been free to choose whichever one best suits their needs.
- We continued using the algorithm as an option within BSAFE toolkits as it gained acceptance as a NIST standard and because of its value in FIPS compliance. When concern surfaced around the algorithm in 2007, we continued to rely upon NIST as the arbiter of that discussion.
- When NIST issued new guidance recommending no further use of this algorithm in September 2013, we adhered to that guidance, communicated that recommendation to customers and discussed the change openly in the media.
The post concludes with the following statement:
RSA, as a security company, never divulges details of customer engagements, but we also categorically state that we have never entered into any contract or engaged in any project with the intention of weakening RSA’s products, or introducing potential ‘backdoors’ into our products for anyone’s use.
Meanwhile, Joseph Menn, the Reuters writer who broke the original news, stands by his story. Over to you, Mr Snowden. ®