Certicom Corp., the Canadian data security company, joined with Pitney Bowes Inc. in endowing research chairs at the University of Waterloo, Ontario.

Certicom has been promoting the elliptic curve method of data encryption as an alternative to standards based on RSA Data Security Inc. programs. To educate the market and raise awareness, Certicom also recently followed RSA's practice of challenging cryptographers and mathematicians to break its code, with monetary rewards to the code-breakers.

Because of some computational efficiencies, elliptic curve cryptography is said to be advantageous where computing power is limited, such as on smart cards. But many scientists say the Certicom products still need to pass rigorous tests, a concern that the challenge is supposed to help address.

"From basic credit card authorization to wireless transactions, cryptography can provide security and enhance efficiency of digital commerce," said Certicom president and chief executive officer Philip Deck. He said the company wants to support "research into new cryptographic techniques and encourage the discovery of new applications."

Scott Vanstone, Certicom's chief cryptographer, who is affiliated with St. Jerome's College of University of Waterloo, was named to the NSERC/Pitney Bowes Industrial Research Chair, effective Jan. 1.

Douglas Stinson will hold the NSERC/Certicom chair effective July 1. NSERC-Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada-partially funded the $18 million, five-year research program.

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