The Commerce Depart




Techno-Boost for International Commerce

The Department of Commerce granted permission to Netscape and Microsoft to export software for international banking transactions that is more secure than previous versions. The government had been concerned that overly powerful encryption software could pose a threat to national security. The newly approved 128-bit encryption software is seen as necessary to keep transactions secure from hackers with sophisticated mainframes. In fact, as part of a contest organized by a data security company, some programmers broke a 56-bit code with an ordinary Pentium personal computer this is like breaking into a bank vault with a hammer. Each bit doubles the encoding power, so the level of complexity between 40 bits the old standard and 128 bits is astronomical.

Supporters of the governments decision see it as a boon to international trade, with bankers worldwide able to transmit financial data securely. Mark Eckman, CPA, chairman of the American Institute of CPAs information technology research subcommittee, also sees the decision as an advance. "However, the real key to acceptance of electronic commerce is not in the technology but, rather, in the mind-set of the users," he said. "When they feel the need to use the technology, they will begin to use the technology. The use of 128-bit keys will help, but it is not a driver to the use of the technology."



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