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The algorithm which basically keeps the internet safe was created in Leuven

22 November 2016

You might not think of it when you swipe your credit card, log in to a Wi-Fi hotspot or open up your highly secured online banking app, but the very algorithm keeping all of your precious data secure is in fact a creation of KU Leuven's Department of Electrical Engineering. Today, the algorithm is used in over two billion devices.

Professor Vincent Rijmen (KU Leuven, Department of Electrical Engineering, COSIC Division, picture right) and professor Joan Daemen (STMicroElectronics) have worked together since 1993 on several research projects in cryptography. One of their co-operations resulted in the encryption algorithm Rijndael.

In 2000, Rijndael was selected by the US National Institute for Standards in Technology (NIST) to become the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES, FIPS 197). NIST motivated their choice referring to the strong security of Rijndael and its excellent performance on a wide range of computing platforms (servers, PCs, embedded devices, smartcards, dedicated hardware). The design methodology of Rijndael is based on discrete mathematics and coding theory. It has been adopted by many other designers since.

Entire internet infrastructure uses Rijndael algorithm

After the standardization by NIST, AES has been used by many organizations and manufacturers to secure their applications: mobile phones, WiFi, credit cards, online banking apps, https websites, secure remote controls, … The algorithm is implemented both in software and in hardware. PC's constructed after 2011, all smartphones, all WiFi access points using WPA2 and every router, firewall and server out there are secured by the algorithm. This brings the number of devices secured by AES well over two billion.

Since 2011, Intel and AMD include special AES instructions in all their processors in order to speed up the algorithm even further. Both Microsoft’s BitLocker and Apple’s FileVault disk encryption software are based on AES.


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