Designed by Ross Anderson, Eli Biham, and Lars Knudsen; published in 1998. It uses a 256-bit key, 128-bit block, and operates in XTS mode (see the section Modes of Operation). Serpent was one of the AES finalists. It was not selected as the proposed AES algorithm even though it appeared to have a higher security margin than the winning Rijndael . More concretely, Serpent appeared to have a high security margin, while Rijndael appeared to have only an adequate security margin . Rijndael has also received some criticism suggesting that its mathematical structure might lead to attacks in the future .
In , the Twofish team presents a table of safety factors for the AES finalists. Safety factor is defined as: number of rounds of the full cipher divided by the largest number of rounds that has been broken. Hence, a broken cipher has the lowest safety factor 1. Serpent had the highest safety factor of the AES finalists: 3.56 (for all supported key sizes). Rijndael-256 had a safety factor of 1.56.
In spite of these facts, Rijndael was considered an appropriate selection for the AES for its combination of security, performance, efficiency, implementability, and flexibility . At the last AES Candidate Conference, Rijndael got 86 votes, Serpent got 59 votes, Twofish got 31 votes, RC6 got 23 votes, and MARS got 13 votes [18, 19].*
* These are positive votes. If negative votes are subtracted from the positive votes, the following results are obtained: Rijndael: 76 votes, Serpent: 52 votes, Twofish: 10 votes, RC6: -14 votes, MARS: -70 votes .