What is the International Data Encryption Algorithm IDEA? How it Works and What Industries are Using it as a Security Measure.
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An Overview of the International Data Encryption Algorithm (IDEA)

written by: Sheila Robinson•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/22/2010

What is the International Data Encryption Algorithm IDEA? In this brief overview, find out about how it works and is being used as a security measure for business and government.

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    About IDEA

    IDEA encryption method The International Data Encryption Algorithm IDEA was originally intended as the replacement for the Data Encryption Standard (DEA) that was used by the U.S. for protection of financial data. This algorithm was developed by Xuejia Lai and James Massey of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. It was originally called Improved Proposed Encryption Standard (IPES). IDEA was introduced in 1991 and was applied to the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) v.2.0, an encryption computer program that provides authentication for data communication.

    As of 2010, it is currently being used in highly secure applications for manufacturing, broadband Internet services, telecommunications, financial institutions, digital television and the U.S. government. It is also been successful in business to business applications (B2B) and as an optional algorithm in the OpenPGP standard.

    IDEA has been patented for use in Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands, UK and the United States. These patents are due to expire in 2010-2011. After the patents expire, IDEA NXT algorithm (previously called FOX) is set to be the successor.

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    IDEA Strong Points

    IDEA has been proven to be successful against many cipher attack methods. It can be immune in certain circumstances and appears to have no algebraic or linear type of weakness. In 2005, APEX Technology claimed that the IDEA algorithm outperformed the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) that is currently being used by the U.S. government and many European countries.

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    How Does the International Data Encryption Algorithm (IDEA) Work?

    IDEA works as a block cipher that uses a 128-bit key that is capable of encrypting data into blocks of 64-bits. Consistent with other conventional encryption methods, it begins with two inputs – plaintext and a key. The IDEA algorithm breaks down the inputs into four 16-bit sized blocks. These blocks are then mixed together in multiple rounds. These produce the output blocks, which are then transformed into fifty-two sub-keys. The remaining four 16-bit blocks are then linked to form the ciphertext. Put simply, text is converted into a cipher using 16-bit blocks that are mixed together using multiplication and addition operations.

    The final result of these operations turns the blocks into garbled code that cannot be deciphered without the use of the fifty-two subkeys.

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    Final Thoughts on IDEA

    Encryption methods are used to help keep financial and other types of critical information safe from theft. They are constantly changing to adapt to improved technology and the sophistication of hackers and other cyber criminals.

    The International Data Encryption Algorithm IDEA has been an effective measure used in the protection of data communication authentication for PGP and other applications. IDEA NXT will soon succeed the original IDEA algorithm. Only by staying one step ahead with our methods of encryption can we hope to keep our vital information safe from hackers and cyber criminal attacks.

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    Image Credit

    The image for the International Data Encryption Algorithm IDEA article was by http://www.sxc.hu/profile/flaivoloka Flavio Takamoto

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