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US Commerce Dept to issue lighter crypto rules

New regulations ease export of 56-bit and greater encryption software

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The US Department of Commerce is this week at last set to issue new, relaxed regulations covering the export of powerful encryption software. The regulations will be based on the US government's latest policy on data encryption, which was announced back in September. The new regulations will permit the export of 56-bit encryption technology -- the greater the number of bits in the 'key', the harder the software lock is to pick -- after the exporter has passed a Commerce Department one-off, 15-day approval procedure. After the review, the products can be exported to all but seven nations (deemed by the US government to be too dodgy). Encryption software using 57 or more bits will also be eligible for export, but only to a select list of 42 'safe' nations and then only to Internet merchants, finance, insurance and medical companies. These firms will not be required to implement key recovery mechanisms, which could be used by official bodies to gain access to encrypted data. ®

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