The race to find the security standard for electronic commerce in the next century has narrowed down to five runners.
Two European contenders are on the shortlist to become the new Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
The US Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) wants to replace the Data Encryption Standard (DES), which is now more than 20 years old and dogged by concerns that is an easy target for hackers.
NIST has spent a year attempting to break the 15 algorithms put forward as contenders. The AES will have a 128bit encryption key, compared with the 56bit key of DES.
US government agencies will adopt the AES for encrypting information and private business is likely to follow suit.
US Secretary of Commerce William Daley said the AES will be, "an important security tool in support of the dynamic growth of electronic commerce."
NIST will publish its analysis of the finalists in April next year. It aims to complete the standard by the summer of 2001.
The two European finalists are Rijndael, developed by two Belgians, and Serpent, developed in a European academic collaboration by Ross Anderson of Cambridge University, Eli Biham and Lars Knudsen.
The other contenders are IBM's MARS, RC6 from RSA Labs, and Twofish, developed by Counterpane Systems.
For more stories see this week's issue of Computing
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