Banking industry demands and concerns figured heavily in the latest release of RSA Data Security Inc.'s data encryption tool kit.

The upgrade for software developers, known as BSAFE 4.0, was announced in January, and shipments began this month.

Much attention in the cryptography community was focused on RSA's decision to include in 4.0 elliptic curve cryptography, a rival method of calculation to the RSA algorithms that have become commercial standards.

RSA bowed to a groundswell of interest in elliptic curve, particularly from companies that want to introduce encryption into compact devices like pagers and smart cards that would be strained by conventional approaches.

In another measure to address concerns that encryption systems slow the processing of transactions, RSA incorporated support for hardware acceleration systems.

Of even more direct interest to bankers is the addition of support for a series of X9 standards, the specifications for financial institution technologies coordinated by a committee led by the American Bankers Association.

"When transferring funds, financial institutions want to be sure of compliance with standards," and BSAFE 4.0 now fits easily into that requirement, said RSA product manager Marty Jost.

"The enhancements we've made clearly demonstrate our commitment to keeping BSAFE on the cutting edge of cryptography technology," said Scott Schnell, vice president of RSA in Redwood City, Calif. "We have listened to our customers to help guide us in providing the right cryptographic technologies to suit their diverse and changing needs."

The rise of the Internet and a general increase in interest about data security has fueled growth at RSA and its parent, Security Dynamics Technologies Inc., and has brought a growing number of financial companies into direct working relationships with RSA. Mr. Jost said they include American Express Co., Bank of Montreal, Fidelity Investments, Merrill Lynch & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., and Nasdaq.

Integrion Financial Network, the home banking consortium that includes International Business Machines Corp. and 17 major banking companies, lists RSA among its technology partners.

Integrion chief marketing officer Scott Wallace said its members "can use BSAFE 4.0, with its support for the X9 series of financial and banking standards, to build applications for secure interbank communications, with the intention of delivering the types of systems that meet customers' needs for privacy in on-line transactions."

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