May 30, 2006 11:25 AM PDT

China battles rejection of Wi-Fi encryption algorithm

The rejection of China's Wi-Fi encryption algorithm has sparked allegations of foul play.

The Standardization Administration of China, a group promoting China's wireless encryption standard, accused the U.S.-based engineering group Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) of conspiracy and unethical behavior on Monday, according to reports by the Xinhua News Agency, China's official news agency.

The accusation was made in an appeal to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), based in Geneva, to reconsider its March decision to reject China's encryption technology known as WAPI (WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure) in favor of the American IEEE's 802.11i encryption standard.

In its appeal, the Chinese standards body said the IEEE didn't follow ethical and procedural rules set by ISO when national bodies voted on the new technology, which will fix security loopholes in the Wi-Fi standard, according to Xinhua.

Wireless encryption helps protect Internet users' privacy while they are surfing the Net or sending e-mail over wireless networks by making the data that travels the network unreadable to unauthorized devices. Most Wi-Fi products are already equipped with some encryption technology, most notably Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption. But stronger encryption methods are needed since hackers have already found ways to circumvent WEP.

Back in March, it was reported that WAPI was rejected by ISO because China refused to disclose some details of the technology. This meant that ISO members weren't able to guarantee that WAPI did not allow backdoor access to encrypted material.

The IEEE's 802.11i encryption standard is backed by Wi-Fi chip leader Intel.

WAPI was supported by just 32 percent of ISO members. In the same voting session, 802.11i was backed by 89 percent of those who voted.

A representative for ISO confirmed on Tuesday that the group had "received information" from the Standardization Administration of China following March's voting, and that ISO had replied to SAC last week.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London, and CNET News.com's Marguerite Reardon reported from New York.

See more CNET content tagged:
WAPI, IEEE 802.11i, China, encryption algorithm, rejection

12 comments

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Okay....
China, developing privacy standards, and the US beating them
out??? That's really funny...or do i have it backwards! Oops better
stop now before the KGB (NSA) comes a knockin'.
; )
Posted by robot999 (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That is funny
The US no longer has any privacy, and would be amusing to see China become more free then us. We are losing rights by the day and have a higher prison population per capita, so maybe we are changing places with them.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Of course they decided not to use that technology
I would have voted against the technology too. If China did refuse to provide adequate information about how the encryption worked to prove that there were no back doors, then there is no way I could have trusted the technology enough to use it or even suggest that other people use it.

If IEEE wants to know how it functions to prove that it is safe, then by all means tell them. If a group like IEEE won't support the software I can tell you right now that there will be lots of commercial groups that can't and won't use the technology on the off chance that there is some backdoor in there.

Whether or not a backdoor exists is irrelevant. It is being able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there isn't a backdoor that security agencies depend on. They will tell you to prove that it is secure. They've already been bit once by 802.11a,b,g.
Posted by quarky42 (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
NSA
Of course when the NSA mandares a made-in-USA backdorr that will be just hunkey-dory?? ( assuming that NSA and Intel don't already have one in place and nobody told us yet)
Posted by gggg sssss (2285 comments )
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Grow Up China!
I think the chinese need to grow-up. If they dont provide sufficient information, how can IEEE approve their standards. May be it is news for the chinese that IEEE or anyother Standards body works on the grounds of tranparency not on Good faith or Consipracy.

Stop crying foul and making fool out of yourself China! Grow Up... or Shut up.
Posted by YankeePoodle (785 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This coming from and Indian?
I don't see India coming up with technology like this.
Posted by pwoon (790 comments )
Link Flag
This coming from an Indian?
I don't see India coming up with technology like this.
Posted by pwoon (790 comments )
Link Flag
The perfect solution
I have the perfect solution that will make everyone happy.

1.The Standardization Administration of China loads the 802.11i document in their favourite text editor.

2. Global search for IEEE and replace with Standardization Administration of China.

3. Global search for 802.11i or RSN and replace with WAPI.

4. Done! Hey, it works in semiconductors, why not standards? Just ask Jiaotong University.
Posted by booboo1243 (328 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hmmm...
So, because a single professor committed fraud, China will counterfeit everything?

Because Enron officials commited conspiracy, America is governed by conspiracies... Hey wait, you might be on to something!
Posted by LosDLosD (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Who to trust
"The IEEE's 802.11i encryption standard is backed by Wi-Fi chip leader Intel." Could we even trust Intel? Did they open up all their source? In this day can anyone trust anybody? After all could you say you can trust your phone company with your "private" messages and not to give your life away to the goverment? Look.. I am not Chinese and I am not sticking up for them. I believe both should offer their source to a third party that hates them both and let them decide as to who has the better.
Posted by Ted Miller (305 comments )
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