Security provider RSA endowed its BSAFE cryptography toolkit with a second NSA-influenced random number generator (RNG) that's so weak it makes it easier for eavesdroppers to decrypt protected communications, Reuters reported Monday.
Citing soon-to-be-published research from several universities, Reuters said the Extended Random extension for secure websites allows attackers to work tens of thousands of times faster when breaking cryptography that uses the Dual EC_DRBG algorithm to generate the random numbers that populate a specific cryptographic key. Dual EC_DRBG is a pseudo-random number generator that was developed by cryptographers from the National Security Agency and was the default RNG in BSAFE even after researchers demonstrated weaknesses so severe that many suspected they were introduced intentionally so the US spy agency could exploit them to crack encrypted communications of people it wanted to monitor. In December, Reuters reported that the NSA paid RSA $10 million to give Dual EC_DRBG its favored position in BSAFE.
Extended Random was a second RNG that would presumably make cryptographic keys more robust by adding a second source of randomness. In theory, the additional RNG should increase the entropy used when constructing a new key. In reality, the algorithm made protected communications even easier for attackers to decrypt by reducing the time it takes to predict the random numbers generated by Dual EC_DRBG, which is short for Dual Elliptic Curve, Reuters reported Monday.