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NIST Estimates Encryption Standard’s Economic Benefit at $250B; Walter Copan Quoted

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Walter Copan

A National Institute of Standards and Technology study estimates the economic impact of an encryption standard launched two decades ago to be worth approximately $250B.

NIST said Wednesday the Advanced Encryption Standard is an algorithm that works to decrypt and encrypt electronic data and was cleared for government use in November 2001.

The agency tapped RM Advisory Services to survey private and government users of encryption systems and found that the AES program’s estimated benefit-to-cost ratio for the entire economy is 1,976-to-1.

“This outstanding return on investment exemplifies the economic value of federal research and development, for the private sector and for the broader American economy,” said Walter Copan, NIST director and undersecretary of commerce for standards and technology at the Commerce Department.

“It also demonstrates how bringing together the private and public sectors effectively to address a challenge can result in positive impacts on U.S. commerce.”

NIST officially proposed AES, also known as Rijndael, in October 2000 three years after it launched an international competition to replace the Data Encryption Standard amid rising vulnerabilities.

The U.S. government uses the royalty-free cryptographic algorithm in its Federal Information Processing Standard.