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Ultra-lightweight encryption method becomes international standard

Like all electronic devices, car keys, mobile phones, medical implants and many other everyday devices that utilise microchip technology need to be protected. But due to the tiny size of the chips inside these products, providing protection is no easy task. Researchers at KU Leuven, together with international colleagues, have designed a new encryption algorithm for use in microchips in small devices. The method has been included in the new international standard for lightweight cryptography.

Like all electronic devices, car keys, mobile phones, medical implants and many other everyday devices that utilise microchip technology need to be protected. But due to the tiny size of the chips inside these products, providing protection is no easy task. Researchers at KU Leuven, together with international colleagues, have designed a new encryption algorithm for use in microchips in small devices. The method has been included in the new international standard for lightweight cryptography.

Electronic devices are secured using encryption, a process that converts information into a code that can only be deciphered with the correct password or key. Existing encryption methods are difficult and costly to implement in ultra-small microchips because they are too taxing on chip resources and power. Dr. Andrey Bogdanov of KU Leuven, together with colleagues at Orange Labs (France), Ruhr University Bochum (Germany) and the Technical University of Denmark, have devised a solution.

The method, known as PRESENT, is one of the smallest encryption methods ever designed and is 2.5 times smaller than AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), the Internet’s most widely used encryption method. The PRESENT method frees up system resources and power, increasing chip efficiency. Because cipher size corresponds with chip costs, the new method is 2.5 times more cost-effective than previous encryption methods. Several weeks ago, The International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) included PRESENT in the new international standard for lightweight cryptographic methods. The new standard will allow developers of consumer and industrial products to use the PRESENT cipher in the products of the future.