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WebTV adds crypto for transactions

WebTV aims to become the first Internet appliance maker to offer secure transactions by inking a deal with Terisa Systems.

WebTV Networks, aiming to offer the first Internet appliance to include SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) security for secure transactions, has become the first user of Terisa Systems' new thin SSL client security tools.

As reported May 16 by CNET's NEWS.COM, WebTV will be able to handle transactions on its TV-based Internet access device that until now have been only possible with full-sized PCs. WebTV said the new capability will be a free upgrade to its set-top box this month.

WebTV is still awaiting approval of its acquisition by Microsoft (MSFT).

Terisa claims the new component of its SecureWeb Toolkit is the first commercial product that lets developers add SSL security to Internet appliances, palm-top computers, and PDAs (personal digital assistants). SSL security encrypts a secure connection between two machines connected to the Internet.

"Our SecureWeb Toolkit is flexible enough to operate for workstations, PCs, even mainframes and now Internet Net appliances," Terisa's Ken Mohr said.

Terisa said its new tool allows developers to create client software that's less than half the size of any other SSL client in development. The company offers both domestic and exportable versions with different encryption schemes for its SecureWeb Toolkit and the new thin-client module.

First Commerce Bank has offered a WebTV version of its nBank Web site since April, but the informational site does not offer secure transactions.

Separately, Terisa's new parent company, security hardware vendor Spyrus, will announce Monday that it has won U.S. government approval to introduce commercial PC cards that provide security 16 million times stronger than existing cards in its Lynks Privacy Card product line.

The cards, which use 80-bit Fortezza encryption, will be distributed without the key escrow requirements that the government has previously insisted upon.

Burton Tregub, Spyrus's vice president of market development, said the government has dropped key escrow to encourage broader domestic use of strong encryption. The Fortezza cards, which the federal government uses itself and with outside contractors, still require export approval before they can be sold overseas.

Spyrus said the new cards, which are available immediately, will be targeted for big-dollar Internet and intranet transactions, mobile users, and applications where customer identity and confidentiality are essential, such as medical and personnel records and legal documents. The cards use Terisa's SecureWeb Documents to sign and encrypt documents.

Terisa's new thin client security tools address a problem created by limited memory on Internet appliances, a feature designed to reduce their cost but that hampers security.

"The beauty of our thin SSL client option is that it squeezes robust security into a small space," Terisa CTO and founder Allan Schiffman said in a statement. With the tool, software developers can support SSL versions 2 and 3 in 100 to 150K.

Last month, Spyrus announced its intention to acquire Terisa.