According to a new study prepared for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the agency’s development of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) has created an estimated $250 billion in economic impact over the last 20 years.

“The study’s most conservative estimate shows a 29-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio for the AES program. The estimated benefit-to-cost ratio for the whole economy is 1,976-to-1,” the agency said in a press release.

The study, conducted by RM Advisory Services, surveyed government and private sector encryption users and developers of encryption hardware and software. NIST noted that the current AES standard was adopted to replace the older Data Encryption Standard (DES), after 20 years of use began to expose vulnerabilities in the older standard.  AES was approved for Federal use in November 2001, and has seen widespread deployment across the public and private sector. The encryption algorithm is public and available royalty-free.

“This outstanding return on investment exemplifies the economic value of federal research and development, for the private sector and for the broader American economy,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Walter G. Copan. “It also demonstrates how bringing together the private and public sectors effectively to address a challenge can result in positive impacts on U.S. commerce.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.