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AES 256-bit encryption and Skype

Posted on 2004-08-17
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Last Modified: 2009-01-27
hello there,
Anyone using Skype? (www.skype.com)

i learnt that skype uses AES 256-bit encryption to secure its instant messaging, file transfer and pc-to-pc voice call. (btw the quality of the voice calls is excellent, even for dialup users like me!)

my question is: how strong is this "AES 256-bit encryption"? and how safe would it be if i wanted to transfer so-called "sensitive" data or to talk about "sensitive" things with my friends in china? you know there are more than 40000 internet cops out there working day and night to monitor what people are doing on the net. and if they find something "anti-revolutionary" or "politically wrong", they'll start to trace you and soon you'll be in trouble...i don't want my friends be in trouble but i want to let them know what is going on in their country---they need some fresh air and freedom, not all the craps from the government don't they?

any help/comments would be greatly appreciated.
KEN
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Question by:ken021600
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aspirine earned 300 total points
ID: 11938840
Hi,
AES is considered to be one of the best encryption algorithms nowadays, most governments use it.
If you took a million-dollar mainframe computer to brute-force (that is, try all possible keys) an AES 128 bit key, it would take billions of years to break it.
Even taking in mind a possible hardware revolution that would make computers to be hundreds of times faster than they are today, it would still take thousands of years to break that long of a key (and that's being really optimist about the future of computing).

Just for the record, a 256 bit key is 1.1 x 10^77 characters long

Conclusion: Seeing as it would take thousands of times the age of the universe to crack an AES 256 key with current technologies. It can be considered pretty secure :)
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Expert Comment

by:benjamin_smee
ID: 12265317
everything the above poster says is completely true. AES is the replacement for DES (standing for advanced encryption standard and digital encryption standard) and as such is THE standard for encryption. It had to pass a number of tests to get that position and beat of a number of competing algorithyms. It is the most secure encryption we have right now.

That said it is important to realise that while brute forcing the key would take a infeasable amount of time, it is more likely that a discovery in mathematics will break aes in the form of factorisation or quantum computing. If there was a breakthrough in either of these fields then AES would be useless. Just what capabilities the NSA have in this regard, I for on don't know, but I doubt they would be interested in exposing it just to crack your conversations ;)
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