The floundering SET standard for secure electronic commerce was boosted last week when Microsoft signed up to support it in the next version of its Wallet software. MS Wallet 3.0, to be included in Windows 98 and Internet Explorer 5.0, is a repository for a user's personal details, including credit card details and address, that can be used to verify the user during online transactions. Wallet 3.0 has been submitted to SETCo, the body overseeing the SET (secure electronic transaction) specification, for SET 1.0 compliance testing. John Matthews, director at Infact Research, said: "(Microsoft's involvement) should be a big boost to SET. It sounds like (the standard) has been floundering; it has not hit the headlines enough, and public interest was waning. With Microsoft embedding SET, it will receive a timely boost, and may make it the standard that the credit card companies were hoping for." Only six software packages have so far been approved by SETCo, including server software and a wallet from Globeset, and wallets from Verifone, SPYRUS/Terisa and Trintech. Neil Laver, Microsoft's Internet server product manager, said: "Once consumers know that banks and credit card companies will validate their online payments, that will drive the standard." Microsoft Wallet already supports SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), but due to US export restrictions, SSL outside the US only supports 40-bit encryption, a level of security too weak to ensure the security of online payments. Wallet 3.0 will support both standards, and Laver explained that Microsoft had decided to go with SET after "reviewing the way encryption standards were going," an indication that the industry cannot wait for the US government to lift its export restrictions on strong encryption. SET was granted export approval because its encryption capabilities are limited to the specific transaction processes built into the SET standard.
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