Senator Asks NIST to Propose Secure Data Sharing Methods

Senator Ron Wyden has asked the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to create and publish a guide for securely sharing sensitive data over the internet.

The senator has pointed out that in many government and private organizations employees use password-encrypted ZIP files to share sensitive documents, but these files can in many cases be cracked using widely available hacking tools due to the use of weak encryption.

Sen. Wyden wants NIST to create an easy-to-understand guide, noting that while many secure data sharing methods are freely available it’s often difficult for people to decide which one to use.

“Given the ongoing threat of cyber attacks by foreign state actors and high-profile data breaches, this is a potentially catastrophic national security problem that needs to be fixed. The government must ensure that federal workers have the tools and training they need to safely share sensitive data,” the senator said in his letter to NIST.

Cryptography expert Matthew Green agrees with the senator and believes steps should be taken to address the problem.

“We cryptographers are arguing over PGP key sizes. Meanwhile government employees are emailing each other documents encrypted with a cipher that was handily broken in the 90s,” Green said on Twitter.

“This is one of those areas (like legacy SMS) where we’ve somehow gotten stuck with the least common denominator. There’s a huge opportunity for smart people in this field to come up with something much better,” he added.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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