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Introduction

An encryption algorithm is a mathematical procedure used to encrypt data. Through the use of an algorithm and a key, information is encoded into cipher text and requires the use of a 'key' to transform the data back into its original form.

Algorithms are an essential part of a technology to ensure effective and secure authentication, as well as to provide integrity and encryption. ETSI creates cryptographic algorithms and protocols specific to fraud prevention, unauthorized access to public and private telecommunications networks and user data privacy.

ETSI is custodian of these algorithms, as well as algorithms produced by other organizations. We are also custodians of other codes and test suites.

Our Role & Activities

ETSI Security Algorithms Group of Experts (SAGE) provides standards makers with cryptographic algorithms and protocols specific to fraud prevention, unauthorized access to public and private telecommunications networks and user data privacy.

The group's output includes algorithms for audiovisual services, 3GPPTM, DECTTM, GSMTM, TETRA, GPRS and Universal Personal Telecommunications (UPT). Where appropriate, the group collaborates with other ETSI committees and with other organizations in order to ensure that the algorithms produced fully meet the needs of the technologies and services in which they are used.

Mobile communications

In recent years most of the group’s work has been for mobile telephone standards – the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM™), the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS™), Long Term Evolution (LTE™), and most recently 5G – all radio technologies specified by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP™). Indeed, all the standardized algorithms in UMTS, LTE and 5G mobile telecommunications, as well as more recent GPRS algorithms, have been specified by SAGE.

Whilst the algorithms are considered to be extremely robust, there is always a need to have alternative solutions ready should a breach of security ever occur. For this reason, the SAGE group develops new 256-bit algorithms – including radio interface encryption and integrity algorithms (for both user plane and control plane traffic) as well as authentication and key agreement (AKA) algorithms – to provide long-term resistance to possible future quantum computing attacks in 5G systems. These same 256-bit algorithms could also be potentially retrofitted to previous-generation mobile systems if required.

For more information see our section on Algorithms & Codes.