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August 14, 1996


By CBR Staff Writer

After months of negotiation with the US State Department, Netscape Communications Corp has now received government clearance to distribute the high encryption version of its Navigator Web browser to US citizens and residents via the Internet. Netscape’s products are the only ones with RC4 128-bit approved for Internet distribution, the company said. The more powerful version of the software had previously been available in the US, but only through direct purchase from the company. Officials had been concerned that if the more secure version was available on the Internet, overseas Internet surfers – possibly including terrorist groups – would download it, the company said. The software contains multiple formulae which make it virtually impenetrable for computer hackers and others that might attempt to break into Internet transmissions, steal credit card codes or tamper with bank accounts. This new ability… means that more people will have access to stronger and more secure communications than ever before, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen said in a statement. This stronger security will help to accelerate the adoption of the Internet as a medium for on-line communication and commerce, he added. But does the development signal a softening in the US government’s line on encryption? Probably not, according to Kurt Stammberger, Redwood City, California-based RSA Data Security Inc’s technology marketing manager: Unfortunately nothing has changed… we expect to see other vendors attempt to follow in Netscape’s footsteps though the State Department’s export control department is already understaffed and permission are likely to be delayed many, many months – if they are granted at all..

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