Philips Semiconductors announced an agreement with Giesecke & Devrient of Germany to develop a high-performance smart card for secure Internet transactions.

The card would be designed to generate digital signatures, which involve complex data encryption calculations.

To comply with Germany's digital signature law -- which may establish a de facto international benchmark -- the smart card system must be certified at level E4 of the internationally recognized Information Technology Security Evaluation Criteria, or ITSEC.

Alexander Harrer, chip card integrated circuit product manager at Philips Semiconductors, called E4 a "challenging target" that can be achieved with Philips' chips, its "WE" smart card controllers, and Giesecke & Devrient's Starcos operating system.

Jurgen Nehls, a G&D director and head of the unit overseeing cards and payment security, said Philips' "32-bit FrameX is the most advanced crypto co-processor available for public key encryption, and the WE range has significantly enhanced security features and a fully dedicated architecture" designed for high-level security.

Philips chip technology has been similarly endorsed for a joint project with International Business Machines Corp., which is aiming even higher on the ITSEC scale -- E5 or E6 -- or the equivalent under an updated international evaluation scheme known as Common Criteria.

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