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RSA Security

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

RSA Security is a United States-based organization that creates encryption, network and computer security products.

Ron Rivest Adi Shamir, and Len Adleman founded RSA as an independent company in 1982. RSA derives from the initials of each of the founders names. RSA was acquired by EMC Corporation in 2006 and operates as a corporate division of that company. RSA headquarters are in Bedford, Massachusetts; the company also maintains satellite offices in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, the United Kingdom and Singapore.

RSA products:
RSA makes the public key infrastructure (PKI) encryption standards by which much of the Internet’s secure communication are run. Other RSA products include hardware tokens, software tokens, SecurID, Besafe and enVision.

RSA encryption is based on use of a public and a private key. Typically a key fob (such as an RSA SecurID security token) is used by employees in security-sensitive companies. The token generates a public key that changes every minute. This string is combined with a user’s password to make a hybrid one-time use password.

On secure websites, a digital certificate with the public key is made publicly available. The private key is never sent over the Internet and is used to decrypt text that is encrypted with the public key. The senders’s identity can also be verified using the public key. Both of these keys are created at the same time by the RSA algorithm.

RSA controversy:
In December 2013, Reuters reported that the RSA had accepted a 10 million dollar payment to place a backdoor for the NSA in their Dual Elliptic Curve random number generation system. In interview, the company’s chief technologist, Sam Curry, declined to answer whether that allegation was true. The NSA actively promoted the compromised security product in its role as security consultants. Reuters also reported that the company’s website security tool Extended Random made the seemingly strong encryption 10,000 times faster for the NSA to crack.

This was last updated in July 2014

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