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VNU Net: RSA releases encryption code

Sep 06, 2000, 20:18 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Leyden)


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By John Leyden, VNU Net

RSA Security has released its public key encryption algorithm into the public domain, in a move that fires the starting gun for increased competition in ebusiness security.

The RSA algorithm is widely considered the standard for encryption and the core technology that secures the vast majority of ebusiness transactions. However, the move comes two weeks before RSA Security's patent rights expire, and has been dismissed by competitors as an empty gesture.

The release of the RSA algorithm into the public domain will allow anyone to create products that incorporate their own implementation of the algorithm, although they have to pay RSA Security to use it.

The US patent for the RSA algorithm was issued to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on 20 September 1983. It is licensed exclusively to RSA Security and expires on 20 September 2000.

"So much misinformation has been spread recently regarding the expiration of the RSA algorithm patent that we wanted to create an opportunity to state the facts," said Art Coviello, chief executive officer of RSA Security.

"RSA Security's commercialisation of the RSA patent helped create an entire industry of highly secure interoperable products that are the foundation of the worldwide online economy.

"Releasing the RSA algorithm into the public domain now is a symbolic next step in the evolution of this market, as we believe it will cement the position of RSA encryption as the standard in all categories of wired and wireless applications and devices," added Coviello.

Tom Fawcett, security analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said RSA Security has diversified and does not rely on the patent for revenue, but the open availability of the RSA algorithm will increase competition.

"The expiry of the patent means more innovation, because it gives an opportunity for small developers who might not have able to afford to pay royalties to RSA Security," he said.

Paddy Holahan, executive vice president of marketing at rival Baltimore Technologies, described the move as "too little, too late".

He explained that, among other things, the patent's expiry will allow Baltimore to see its development toolkits in competition to those of RSA Security in the US for the first time.

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