The recent wave of high-profile thefts of consumer credit card numbers on the Internet has revived interest in the Secure Electronic Transaction protocol, an Internet security standard developed by MasterCard International and Visa U.S.A.

SET was developed in the mid-1990s, and until about two years ago many banking industry executives viewed the high-tech safety measure as a potential cure-all for merchant and consumer skittishness about putting credit cards on-line. But as more and more consumers overcame their fears about buying merchandise on-line, enthusiasm for SET flagged. The public consensus seemed to be that a lower-grade security standard now used on most Web sites, Secure Sockets Layer, was adequate.

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