Programmable Cryptography: Today's Challenge

At any given time a consensus exists about which finite set of cryptographic algorithms are considered to be state of the art—strong enough for the vast majority of commercial applications. These strong algorithms are public, and become standard in commercially available products. Details about the algorithms themselves aren’t especially secret—what is secret is the key used as input to the algorithm; that is why key protection and management are so important. The practice of publicly disclosing algorithms is advantageous because it stimulates peer review and ultimately leads to a greater degree of confidence in the algorithms’ security properties. Some organizations, though, develop customized algorithms that they wish to keep secret, proprietary, and limited to their own exclusive use. For example, national governments that need to protect military information might consider commercial algorithms insufficiently secure; these organizations seek to add an extra level of assurance by retaining tight control and keeping their own algorithms secret.

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Organizations that prefer to use custom algorithms still need hardware devices that can provide physical protection—and in some cases hardware acceleration—for their algorithms. However, developing fully custom devices to satisfy this need is a very expensive route and in most cases cannot be justified. So instead, these organizations turn to the commercial sector to take advantage of programmable encryption devices or hardware security modules (HSMs) that can be modified to suit their needs. Using an industry-leading hardware device that can be programmed with their custom algorithms, government and defense organizations can deploy cost-effective solutions that deliver the high levels of assurance they need—and that are also are straightforward to deploy and manage.

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Risks Associated with Programmable Cryptography

  • Given the rising threat of cyber attacks by criminal, terrorist, and state-sponsored groups, standard commercial algorithms—even the strongest—may not provide sufficient protection for the world’s most critical government and defense networks and applications.
  • The cost of developing and maintaining custom hardware is increasingly difficult to justify.
  • Building custom hardware devices for specific applications often results in technology that lags the commercial market by many years, making it difficult for these organizations to take advantage of innovation in the commercial sector.  

Programmable Cryptography: Thales e-Security Solutions

Network encryption products from Thales e-Security can deliver the high levels of assurance needed by government and defense organizations or any others that need to use their own encryption algorithms. Because Datacryptor network encryption platforms can be customized with an organization’s preferred algorithms, and upgraded if algorithms change, Thales enables these organizations to take full advantage of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products while maintaining the high levels of assurance their policies require. These products offer a practical and cost-effective alternative to creating custom devices, and can be exported to most countries around the world. For more about customizable Datacryptor platforms, see High Grade Government Encryption productsFor details on specific national solutions, contact Thales.


  • Deploy your own encryption algorithms in a proven COTS network encryption platform, eliminating the need for costly development and maintenance of custom devices.
  • Maximize return on your investment in custom algorithms.
  • Take full advantage of network protocols that are most suitable for your application, confident that your data will be protected in accordance with your most stringent policies.
  • Work with data protection experts. Take advantage of Thales’ more than 30 years of experience in government and military security solutions.