Siemens Semiconductor Group said an advanced chip it makes has passed an important security test of the German Central Credit Control Committee of Banks, the payment association known as ZKA.

ZKA, which operates the Geldkarte smart card program, one of the largest in the world, said the Siemens 16-bit cryptocontroller, the SLE66CX160S, is the first to fully comply with its new security requirements. It can handle advanced cryptographic calculations, both the RSA and elliptic curve cryptography methods.

The Siemens chip is said to be secure from a recently detected threat against chips, known as differential power analysis. The chip is to be incorporated in the next generation of Geldkarte, to be issued in 2000. Siemens said it has supplied 70% of the 45 million Geldkartes issued to date.

Joerg Borchert, vice president of the security and chip card integrated circuits division of Siemens Microelectronics, a U.S. affiliate of the German technology company, said the ZKA approval "proves Siemens Semiconductor's leading security expertise worldwide. Siemens began quantity shipments of these chips in July. They are the world's first 16- bit cryptocontrollers for smart cards."

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