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:


4 Answers 4


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.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi Habib. Any chance you could show us what a Persian cryptography research paper looks like? $\endgroup$
    – user9070
    Oct 26, 2013 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$
    – Habib
    Oct 26, 2013 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ 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! $\endgroup$
    – user9070
    Oct 26, 2013 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$
    – Habib
    Oct 26, 2013 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ 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 $\endgroup$
    – Habib
    Nov 9, 2013 at 11:22

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

Indeed, the US is known from some crypto-related competitions that were/are open to anyone and they surely will do ample of government research related to cryptology, but you need to be sure that you differ between “they selected it” and “they created it”. There is a big difference! For example: what we now call AES was selected through an open competition by the USA, but the cipher design that became AES was not created by the USA.

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

Of course there are other countries and states that are known to be the origin of different ciphers, but listing them all would be a bit too broad. Instead, I’ll give you a quick heads-up:

small comparison table of algos and countries of origin/invention

Also, on page 3 of "The Design of Rijndael: AES – The Advanced Encryption Standard." by Joan Daemen and Vincent Rijmen (the creators of Rijndael – also known as AES), you can find a neat table that shows a list of the 15 AES candidates that were accepted for the first evaluation round, including their country of origin.

For your convenience, here are those 15 candidates:

  • CAST-256
    submitted by Entrust (company), from Canada
  • Crypton
    submitted by Future Systems (company), from Republic of Korea
  • DEAL
    submitted by Outerbridge, Knudsen (researchers), from USA & Denmark
  • DFC
    submitted by ENS-CNRS (researchers), from France
  • E2
    submitted by NTT (company), from Japan
  • Frog
    submitted by TecApro (company), from Costa Rica
  • HPC
    submitted by Schroeppel (researcher), from USA
  • LOKI97
    submitted by Brown et al. (researchers), from Australia
  • Magenta
    submitted by Deutsche Telekom (company), from Germany
  • Mars
    submitted by IBM (company), from USA
  • RC6
    submitted by RSA (company), from USA
  • Rijndael
    submitted by Daemen and Rijmen (researchers), from Belgium
  • SAFER+
    submitted by Cylink (company), from USA
  • Serpent
    submitted by Anderson, Biham, Knudsen (researchers), from United Kingdom & Israel & Denmark
  • TwoFish
    submitted by Counterpane (company), from USA

From the 15 candidates that made it into the first evaluation round of the AES competition, only 5,5 originated in the USA. That’s a mere $36 \frac{2}{3}\%$ percent of US ciphers in their own cipher competition.

Wrapping it up:

  1. AES is far from being a US government baby. Instead, cipher that won the AES competition (Rijndael) was born in the land of friendly people, “french” fries and tasty beer: Belgium!

    Now, being a half-Belgian I may be a bit biased… but I honestly have a hard time trying to imagine why anyone would suspect a Belgian cipher design, just because it also happens to be used by the US government. Instead, that merely indicates that the cipher design is that good, that even the USA uses it to protect its valuable information and big parts of their national security.

  2. A lot of ciphers were (and are) created outside of the USA. Yet, not all ciphers that are created are published; and if they are, they rarely gain attention due to missing publicity and/or popularity. That is one of many reasons why those competitions are interesting for cipher designers.

    As said, listing all ciphers from all countries would be too broad, but the above list of “AES round 1 candidates” already shows Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, and the USA.

    That should be ample to understand ciphers are not a US-only thing and that the US is not as dominant in crypto as you think. In the end, even AES is non-US. They adopted a Belgian cipher to their standards, but they didn’t create it. If you really want to suspect someone for having whatever kind of dominance in the field of symmetric crypto, I can’t stop you. But if you take a good look at the origins of individual ciphers, you’ll notice they come from all over the world… and currently, your main suspect would be Belgium due to AES (aka Rijndael) and SHA-3 (aka Keccak).


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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    $\begingroup$ "USA represent large amount of the entire worlds population" - it represents less than 5%, actually. $\endgroup$
    – hunter
    Oct 25, 2013 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ @hunter This is a matter of perspective. From my perspective that is a lot. I could improve the introduction a bit. $\endgroup$
    – user4982
    Oct 25, 2013 at 15:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ From the perspective of an American, it is a lot. $\endgroup$
    – forest
    Apr 5, 2018 at 8:55
  • $\begingroup$ Cryptography is restricted in China and Iran. Thank you. Now I feel lucky to be an American because for us unrestricted crypto, the rare kind that actually works, is like the air that we breathe. $\endgroup$
    – Patriot
    Jan 31, 2021 at 16:10


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.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$
    – user4982
    Oct 25, 2013 at 18:59
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Salsa20's author is DJB - an American. Don't hold that against him though - he's a freedom fighter. $\endgroup$
    – hunter
    Oct 25, 2013 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ @user4982: AES is by Belgian cryptographers, but it's currently maintained by an American group (the NSA). My personal preference for encryption is Twofish. $\endgroup$ Oct 25, 2013 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ @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. $\endgroup$
    – poncho
    Oct 25, 2013 at 22:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @SubtleArray: yes; the original Rijndael proposal was published, and studied by a number of cryptographers as a part of the AES competition. They would have noticed if what was published as AES was different from that. $\endgroup$
    – poncho
    Oct 27, 2013 at 2:19

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