Saturday, August 28, 1999

High-powered team cracks Net security

The Associated Press

        AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — A group of scientists claimed Friday to have broken an international security code used to protect millions of daily Internet transactions, exposing a potentially serious security failure in electronic commerce.

        Researchers working for the National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science (CWI) in Amsterdam said consumers and some businesses could fall victim to computer hackers if they get their hands on the right tools.

        However, not every computer whiz has access to the equipment, worth several million dollars, and no related Internet crimes have yet been uncovered, the experts said.

        The scientists used a Cray 900-16 supercomputer, 300 personal computers and specially designed number-crunching software to break the so-called RSA-155 code — the backbone of encryption codes designed to protect e-mail messages and credit-card transactions.

        “Your everyday hacker won't be able to do this,” said project director Herman te Reile. “You have to have extensive capacity, the money and the know-how, but we did it.”

        Mr. te Reile said his international team of researchers took six weeks to crack the security system.


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