Half of the encryption schemes currently in use by banks will be obsolete within a year.
Randle Cowcher, head of ecommerce and regulatory security at the Royal Bank of Scotland, said the increasing skills of hackers means that most banks are upgrading equipment based on the 56bit Data Encryption Standard (Des).
"The rate at which people are learning to crack encryption is accelerating, and 50 per cent of the types of encryption you rely on will become suspect within a year," warned Cowcher.
Speaking at the Websec conference in London last week, Cowcher said the Royal Bank of Scotland and other banks are migrating their systems from the basic Des to the more secure, but slower, triple Des standard.
"Des has had a 25 year life - but I estimate hackers will be breaking it in under 10 hours within a year," he said.
Steve Thomas, head of security at the Association for Payment Clearing Services (Apacs) - the industry body for the UK's major banks - said that migrating from Des is about being seen to have the best security.
Nevertheless, he recommends a gradual move away from Des as new systems are brought in, rather than pulling out existing systems which would have "major cost considerations."
Cowcher agreed: "If you have 1,800 cash machines and you have to change the encryptors in all of them you have a real cost."
"Internally, Des will still be used for years - as long as there is a perimeter around it, it is a very effective technology."
For further stories see 1 April issue of Computing
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