Netscape begins selling full-strength crypto over the Net

Rohit Khare (
Tue, 16 Jul 96 18:03:35 -0400

WOW -- I'm speechless at this coup... good start!

{it's besides the point that the checking is absolutely useless -- on the
other hand, 128-bit NS is available worldwide anyway...}


U.S. Allows Netscape to Issue
Encryption Tool Over Internet


MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- _Netscape Communications_ Corp. said it received
government approval to distribute its most powerful encryption software to
U.S. citizens over the Internet.

Under the terms, the highflying maker of Internet software said it will
automatically check the country and Internet address of everyone who wants to
download the software so it can deny downloads to people from other countries.
Also, Netscape will use a database to help verify the names and addresses of
people who want to download the software and ask them to sign affidavits
affirming that they are U.S. citizens.

The State Department wants Netscape to screen requests because it fears
foreign terrorists or criminals could use the software to threaten national

Netscape conceded that even with this screening, foreign nationals could find
a way to download the software.

"We're not saying [the screening] is guaranteed or perfect. We're saying we
have written approval from the government" to distribute the software using
these precautions, said Jeff Treuhaft, Netscape's director of security.

Mr. Treuhaft said this is the first step toward getting approval to export
the software to anyone, including foreigners. Previously, Netscape could send
the powerful, 128-bit version to customers only by mail. U.S. citizens who
wanted to download the software over the Internet had to settle for the same
version that foreign nationals could get, a weaker 40-bit version, which has
been cracked by hackers.

Netscape said the 128-bit encryption software, based on technology from RSA
Data Security Inc., requires 309 septillion more times computing power to
break the encryption code than Netscape's 40-bit version.

Some Netscape customers, including the bank Wells Fargo & Co., use only
128-bit software to encrypt transactions. Until now, that requirement has
limited the number of customers, because very few have taken the trouble to
order the 128-bit version through the mail.