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Microsoft Scraps Old Encryption in New Code

Microsoft is banning certain cryptographic functions from new computer code, citing increasingly sophisticated attacks that make them less secure, according to a company executive.

The Redmond, Wash., software company instituted a new policy for all developers that bans functions using the DES, MD4, MD5 and, in some cases, the SHA1 encryption algorithm, which is becoming "creaky at the edges," said Michael Howard, senior security program manager at the company, Howard said.

MD4 and MD5 are instances of the Message Digest algorithm that was developed at MIT in the early 1990s and uses a cryptographic hash function to verify the integrity of data. The algorithms are used to create digital signatures and check the integrity of information passed within Microsoft Corp.'s products.

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. DES (Data Encryption Standard) is a cipher that is used to encrypt information that is used in many networking protocols. All three algorithms show signs of "extreme weakness" and have been banned, Howard said. Microsoft is recommending using the Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA)256 encryption algorithm and AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) cipher instead, he said.

The change is part of a semi-yearly update to Microsoft's Secure Development Lifecycle policies by engineers within Microsoft's Security Business & Technology Unit.