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Plenty of ciphers come out of the USA from government research or selection competitions. AES and DES are examples.

Are there any public ciphers produced by other states, China or Iran for example? Do you really think they trust AES?

EDIT: List of ciphers from different nations:

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Asking your favourite search engine will give you results in a few minutes ;) Gost for instance is a Russian block cipher. SMS4 is a Chinese one. ARIA is a Korean one. –  DrLecter Oct 25 '13 at 14:23
I guess thats the main reason why governments standardize their own ciphers ;) But some may even not make them public. –  DrLecter Oct 25 '13 at 14:26
I'd argue it's not really fair to say that AES came out of the US given it was originally developed by a Belgian team, then scrutinised internationally. –  figlesquidge Oct 25 '13 at 14:32
@user8911 Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen are Belgian cryptographers. –  user4982 Oct 25 '13 at 14:35
Thanks DrLecter, these are good! –  TruthSerum Oct 25 '13 at 14:51

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

As an Iranian Cryptology student in one of the most well-known Iranian Universities called Sharif University of Technology, I want to add this to the answers.

There doesn't seem to be any National Standard Cipher here in Iran. But It doesn't mean that there shouldn't be any classified cipher being used by the military or the revolutionary guards. As I am familiar with universities affiliated to Iranian military, there might not be the enough confidence for developing a reliable national cipher here.

I should mention that modern cryptology is relatively a new science in Iran and there are few researchers and scholars working on these topics here. Ciphers like AES, RSA and SHA-256 are quietly common among the scholars and are being used in industry now.

In recent couple of years the government and the military forces budgeted more for researches on information security related topics. One of the most famous conferences on information security and cryptography in Iran is named "ISCISC" the latest held was ISCISC13 the proceedings of english papers on this conference would be indexed on IEEE journal.

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Hi Habib. Any chance you could show us what a Persian cryptography research paper looks like? –  TruthSerum Oct 26 '13 at 11:34
Hi. I'm not sure what do you mean by what it looks like. I don't think you mean it's visual appearance but it's scientific quality. We have an annual national conference named "ISCISC" for cryptography which calls for papers in english and persian. The english papers would be indexed in IEEE journal and can be accessed all over the world. Usually the english papers are expected to be in higher level and better quality due to the enthusiastic students for studying abroad. –  Habib Oct 26 '13 at 11:51
Wow that's impressive, is there a public archive of papers from ISCISC? Also, you should add a link to ISCISC to your answer. Thanks again! –  TruthSerum Oct 26 '13 at 12:15
The proceedings are not publicly available but you might find the abstracts of some here and If your internet connection is through a university IP address of which the university has a contract with IEEE Organization you might access the full papers. –  Habib Oct 26 '13 at 12:37
I afraid I cannot give you the full papers of the conference proceedings due to copyright restrictions. But this links of "ePrint Archive" to papers authered by my classmates might be useful for you: A provable secure anonymous proxy signature scheme without random oracles, Secure Channel Coding Schemes based on Polar Codes –  Habib Nov 9 '13 at 11:22

The answer is yes, non-US ciphers exist and are in fact very popular. Actually, some who are looking for alternatives, opt for non-NSA/NIST ciphers, for instance Salsa/ChaCha from DJB (who is US citizen). A lot of ciphers have been developed in EU and Japan. China definitely has developed ciphers for its own use, just like many other countries.

But long detailed response:

Why USA is big on cryptography?

USA represent large amount the world market for high tech products and know-how, as well as representing significant chunk of high-tech jobs. In addition US has quite few of the best technical universities (all of the top 5). Already from this it would be easy to expect that a lot of research on all areas of high-tech to take place in USA. Including, of course cryptography.

People from USA have produced many of the most popular cryptographic algorithms. One good example is SHA-1/2 families, designed by NSA. Those are the widest used hash algorithms today.

It is expected that where USA has lead is the cryptographic know-how and analysis skills outside public information (i.e. what NSA knows but others don't). USA has many classified ciphers and other cryptographic algorithms in use which are not known outside the USA, for some see NSA Suite A Cryptography. The algorithms include at least: MEDLEY, SHILLELAGH, BATON, SAVILLE, WALBURN, JOSEKI-1 (according to that Wikipedia article). Non-suite A algorithms include e.g. SKIPJACK, FASTHASH, JUNIPER.

However, to be the latest NIST approved hash family, SHA-3 (Keccak) as well as AES cipher have been mostly done by european cryptographers. Most of their inventors are Belgian, with Italy involved in Keccak. It was USA (NIST) that held the competition. Thus, I would say that actually much of work inventing ciphers in academic world has moved elsewhere already. In fact, in many cases things are international co-operation, with people from US and abroad.

Validation and verification of correctness of cryptography

Where USA has been strong lately in cryptography is at least validating correctness of the implementation. All around the world, FIPS 140-2 validation is recognized as one of the most important validations cryptographic module may get, and fairly many governments used to see it as and endorsement.

The recent NSA spying speculations hit credibility of USA and NIST pretty badly.

This has caused people to start looking elsewhere and to distrust things invented in USA, especially ones invented by NSA, for instance, some of the currently deployed ECC curves. The alternatives include algorithms from US, but from parties not afflicted with NSA and NIST, like Dan J. Bernstein.

For algorithms invented elsewhere that US and not endorsed by NIST, you may want to look at ECRYPT. There you may find for instance, Camellia (Japan), Rabbit (Denmark).

Iran and China

Cryptographic algorithms in Iran and China? First it is important to acknowledge that cryptography is restricted in both of these countries. This means that for outsider, it is not easy to know very much. The research and know-how is more concentrated on government than e.g. on EU.

SMS4 cipher has been used in WAPI (Chinese Standard for Wireless LANs).

For information on Iran, see the answer by Habib, which covers that area very well.

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"USA represent large amount of the entire worlds population" - it represents less than 5%, actually. –  hunter Oct 25 '13 at 15:34
@hunter This is a matter of perspective. From my perspective that is a lot. I could improve the introduction a bit. –  user4982 Oct 25 '13 at 15:39


The Serpent Cipher was developed outside of America, and isn't maintained by an American group. It came in 2nd place during the AES competition. It has a higher safety factor than AES (Rijndael), but isn't as fast.

And there are stream ciphers being developed and validated by eSTREAM in Belgium. The Salsa20 stream cipher, by American cryptographer Daniel J. Bernstein, has been gaining a lot of traction.

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You could have also mentioned that the winner of the competition was from Belgian cryptographers. Note: the entries 3rd to 5th in the AES competition (Twofish, RC6, and MARS) were largely developed in US. Although they lost the competition, still all of them are pretty well designed ciphers. –  user4982 Oct 25 '13 at 18:59
Salsa20's author is DJB - an American. Don't hold that against him though - he's a freedom fighter. –  hunter Oct 25 '13 at 19:08
@user4982: AES is by Belgian cryptographers, but it's currently maintained by an American group (the NSA). My personal preference for encryption is Twofish. –  Subtle Array Oct 25 '13 at 19:31
@hunter: I've added details about the Salsa20 author to my answer. –  Subtle Array Oct 25 '13 at 19:33
@SubtleArray: I have no idea what you mean that AES is "maintained" by NSA. AES is precisely that subset of Rijndael that met the NIST's original specification (128 bit blocks, 128, 192 or 256 bit keys); NSA (nor anyone else) has modified it since it was originally proposed. –  poncho Oct 25 '13 at 22:08

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