Since the advent of the computer, the complexity of both cryptographic algorithms and cryptanalysis (systematic encryption breaking), as well as sheer processing power have all been steadily increasing, making it so that most encryption methods used today are not perfectly secure but rather so difficult to break as to be practically and realistically unbreakable at the time of their implementation. However, as progress is made in the field of cryptography, earlier algorithms become vulnerable and insecure. Here, IT security standards advocate the use of mechanisms (specific algorithms and their implementations) that are determined to be secure for a given task.
Key management is the direct application of cryptography in the IT security field. Essentially, key management is situated between cryptography and cryptographic entity authentication. As the security of encrypted information depends on the security of the key that decrypts it, IT security standards also address the various environments within which cryptographic keys are established and distributed. In doing so, IT security standards assure that any subsequent information encrypted with keys established and distributed securely will also be secure, increasing the security of the system as a whole.
Today’s cryptographic key management is largely based around symmetric and asymmetric encryption algorithms. Symmetric algorithms use a single private key for both encryption and decryption of data. Asymmetric algorithms differ in that they encrypt data with a public key and then decrypt it with a private key. The advantage of asymmetric encryption is rooted in the publically known encryption key, allowing anybody to encrypt information in such a way that only the entity holding the private key can decrypt it. In exchange for this advantage, asymmetric key algorithms are significantly more resource intensive and rely upon complicated theorems in mathematics, themselves creating a demand for progress in the field of mathematics.
One underlying aspect of the field of cryptography is the widespread acceptance of Shannon’s Maxim, “The enemy knows the system,” a design philosophy that requires methods of encryption to remain secure even if a malevolent entity knows everything there is to know about the system with the exception of the private key. This allows for cryptographic algorithms and key management mechanisms to be released for wide review prior to widespread use. Combining this with a development process focusing heavily on consensus, IT security standards reflect what the IT industry as a whole considers secure.
Some packages of IT security standards regarding Cryptography and Key Management, as well as individual ones:
- DIGITAL SIGNATURE/CRYPTOGRAPHY PACKAGE
- ISO 11568 - BANKING KEY MANAGEMENT PACKAGE
- Key management
- Part 1: Framework
- Part 2: Mechanisms using symmetric techniques (+corrigendum)
- Part 3: Mechanisms using asymmetric techniques
- Part 4: Mechanisms based on weak secrets (+corrigendum)
- Prime number generation
- Key establishment using Integer Factorization Cryptography
- NFC-SEC cryptography standard using ECDH and AES
- Cryptographic techniques based on elliptical curves
- Part 1: General (+corrigendum)
- Part 2: Digital signatures
- Part 3: Key establishment
- Part 5: Elliptical curve generation
- Part 1: General
- Part 2: Hash-functions using an n-bit block cipher
- Part 3: Dedicated hash-functions (+amendment)
- Part 4: Hash-functions using modular arithmetic
- Digital signatures with appendix