Netscape and Microsoft have their long-awaited approval from the US government to export highly-encrypted Internet software for online banking. The news was announced only a week after the British Government?s encryption proposals were slammed by the British Software Alliance as a potentially crippling barrier to expanding electronic commerce.
The licence to export 128-bit encryption for online financial transactions enables 128-bit encryption in products that support the secure sockets layer (SSL) or transport layer security (TLS) protocols. The encryption technology is being incorporated in all domestic and export versions of Microsoft?s Internet systems, including Internet Explorer 4.0, Money 98 and Internet Information Server.
Previously, US export laws limited software to no more than 64-bit encryption for financial data, and this change enables vendors to maintain single versions of products rather than one each for domestic and export markets.
The ruling applies only to banking applications, but Microsoft says a further relaxation of electronic-commerce regulations this summer will extend licenses to other financial applications, mainly in investment, brokerage and insurance.
Mike Dusche, Microsoft's financial services industry manager, commented: ?We believe this is a win for everyone - for banks, for consumers, for the government and for the computer industry.? He added: ?We won?t charge for using this licence nor implement a transaction fee from banks... and we plan to turn the certificate mechanism over to a reliable third-party group.?
US export approval for 128-bit encryption does not require key escrow - the storage of encryption keys that enables officials to recover users' messages - and it is this ongoing requirement that angers UK industry commentators.
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