ETSI reveals TETRA algorithms

ETSI is making the “primitives” of all TETRA air interface cryptographic algorithms available in the public domain. The decision to make them available was made at a meeting of its technical committee in charge of the TETRA standard (TCCE), in October.

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According to ETSI, the decision was made in the light of potential vulnerabilities being discovered in the TETRA air interface security design earlier this year. A spokesperson for the standards organisation said: “Keeping cryptographic algorithms secret was common practice in the early 1990s when the original TETRA algorithms were designed.

“[However], public domain algorithms are now widely used to protect government and critical infrastructure networks, for example AES [Advanced Encryption Standard], standardised by the US government. Effective scrutiny of public-domain algorithms allows for any flaws to be uncovered and mitigated before widespread deployment occurs.”

The spokesperson continued: “TETRA has an original set of air interface cryptographic algorithms - TEA 1,2,3 and 4 - some of which were disclosed by the researchers [earlier this year]. In 2022 ETSI introduced additional algorithms, TEA 5, 6 and 7, in order to future-proof the technology against quantum attacks.

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