Rights, Technology

How much did NSA pay to put a backdoor in RSA crypto? Try $10m

The mystery of why RSA would use a flawed, NSA-championed algorithm as the default random number generator for several of its encryption products appears to be solved, and the answer is utterly banal, if true: the NSA paid it to.

Reuters reports that RSA received $10m from the NSA in exchange for making the agency-backed Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator (Dual EC DRBG) its preferred random number algorithm, according to newly disclosed documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

If that figure sounds small, that’s because it is. Tech giant EMC acquired RSA for $2.1bn in 2006 — around the same time as the backroom NSA deal — so it seems odd that RSA would kowtow to the g-men so cheaply.

But according to Reuters, at the time, things weren’t looking so good for the division of RSA that was responsible for its BSafe encryption libraries. In 2005, those tools brought in a mere $27.5m of RSA’s $310m in annual revenue, or just 8.9 per cent.

By accepting $10m from the NSA, as Reuters claims, the BSafe division managed to increase its contribution to RSA’s bottom line by more than a third — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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