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In cryptography, Triple DES is the common name for the Triple Data Encryption Algorithm (TDEA or Triple DEA) block cipher, which applies the Data Encryption Standard (DES) cipher algorithm three times to each data block.
The original DES cipher's key size of 56 bits was generally sufficient when that algorithm was designed, but the availability of increasing computational power made brute-force attacks feasible. Triple DES provides a relatively simple method of increasing the key size of DES to protect against such attacks, without the need to design a completely new block cipher algorithm.
In general, Triple DES with three independent keys (keying option 1) has a key length of 168 bits (three 56-bit DES keys), but due to the meet-in-the-middle attack, the effective security it provides is only 112 bits. Keying option 2 reduces the key size to 112 bits. However, this option is susceptible to certain chosen-plaintext or known-plaintext attacks, and thus, it is designated by NIST to have only 80 bits of security.
DES Cipher Detail:
Key sizes: 168, 112 or 56 bits (Keying option 1, 2, 3 respectively)
Block sizes: 64 bits
Structure: Feistel network
Rounds: 48 DES-equivalent rounds
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_DES