Leaked classified documents show the National Security Agency (NSA) arranged a US$10 million deal with RSA that ultimately led to the security firm using a “flawed” encryption formula in its products.
The contract set an “NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSAFE software", according to Reuters.
It was revealed in September that all versions of RSA's BSAFE Toolkits were impacted by a community-developed encryption algorithm that was believed to contain an NSA backdoor.
The algorithm in question was Dual Elliptic Curve Deterministic Random Bit Generator (Dual_EC_DRBG), which both RSA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommended the industry not use at the time.
Reuters reported while the $US10 million deal “might seem paltry” for a major company such as RSA – which serves as the security division for the global data storage corporation EMC – it actually accounted for “more than a third of the revenue that the relevant division at RSA had taken in during the entire previous year."
Dual_EC_DRBG was adopted by RSA before NIST's approval, and to help spur NIST's endorsement of its use, NSA shared that the government had already used the algorithm for some time, according to the report.
RSA today "categorically" denied entering into the secret contract.
It said it had never engaged in any project to intentionally weaken its products or introduce backdoors.
"The [Dual EC DRBG] algorithm is only one of multiple choices available within Bsafe toolkits, and users have always been free to choose whichever one best suits their needs," it said in a statement.
"When concern surfaced around the algorithm in 2007, we continued to rely upon NIST as the arbiter of that discussion.
"When NIST issued new guidance recommending no further use of this algorithm in September 2013, we adhered to that guidance, communicated that recommendation to customers and discussed the change openly in the media," it said.