Several times, the American government has held open competitions to create new cryptographic standards. Important examples include the Data Encryption Standard (DES) selected in 1976 and the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) chosen in 2001. As mentioned before, the hunt is now on for a new hash function. These are one-way forms of encryption that play a number of vital roles, such as making it possible to save only encrypted versions of passwords in password databases that might be compromised.
Bruce Schneier, who made an unsuccessful bid for his TwoFish cipher to be accepted as the AES, is now part of the team that has created the Skein Hash Function for the ongoing National Institute of Standards and Technology competition. The function is based around a successor to TwoFish called, unsurprisingly, Threefish. All entries must be submitted by tomorrow and will be publicly scrutinized over the next four years or so. The result should be a more secure successor to the SHA hash functions.