As the premier cryptographic government agency, the NSA has huge
financial and computer resources and employs a host of cryptographers.
Developments in cryptography achieved at the NSA are not made public;
this secrecy has led to many rumors about the NSA's ability to break
popular cryptosystems like DES and also to rumors that the NSA has
secretly placed weaknesses, called trap doors, in government-endorsed
cryptosystems, such as DES. These rumors have never been proved or
disproved, and the criteria used by the NSA in selecting cryptography
standards have never been made public.
Recent advances in the computer and telecommunications industries have placed NSA actions under unprecedented scrutiny, and the agency has become the target of heavy criticism for hindering U.S. industries that wish to use or sell strong cryptographic tools. The two main reasons for this increased criticism are the collapse of the Soviet Union and the development and spread of commercially available public-key cryptographic tools. Under pressure, the NSA may be forced to change its policies.