ECE: Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE News

Evaluating cryptographic performance

NIST SHA-3 competition

Read more about the SHA-3 competition at the website of the National Institute for Standards and Technology.

There exists no official standard for measuring hardware implementation cost, but three universities are combining forces to develop a new performance evaluation environment for cryptographic hardware and software. Teams from George Mason University (GMU), University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and Virginia Tech are working together to solve the problem.

The impetus for this effort is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cryptographic hash algorithm competition, which is seeking a new hash algorithm to be called SHA-3. Security is one of the main criteria for this competition, but is also the most difficult to measure, according to ECE’s Patrick Shaumont, who is leading Virginia Tech’s team. Leyla Nazhandali is a co-principal investigator on the project.

The new evaluation environments created for this project will supply a way to measure hardware implementation cost, including circuit area and performance.

NIST is the organization that defines the standards, including encryption standards. For anything as large as the Internet, everyone has to use the same algorithm to make sure each person can read what someone else has posted.

NIST opened the SHA-3 competition in 2007, and everyone who wanted to enter sent in their hashing algorithm by October 2008. The judging is a three-year process. Fifty-one submissions were accepted into the contest, and the cryptographic community is now working together to break the entries, narrowing down the submissions to a few finalists. Meanwhile, the computer engineering community is looking at the algorithms as well — figuring out which ones can be mapped to software and to hardware. NIST will choose the winner based on cryptographic strength and implementation strategy.