The U.S. Department of Commerce has approved a modification to a federal information processing standard to allow for the use of RSA digital signatures, RSA Data Security Inc. announced.

RSA, a leader in data encryption technology, has been pushing for years to get the government endorsement. The federal digital signature standard known as FIPS 186-1 will now support the X9.31 format of the American National Standards Institute's financial services section.

The immediate effect will be to give government users access to RSA signatures without going through a waiver procedure each time, said Burt Kaliski of RSA Laboratories.

The standard is significant for banking and other industries, said Father Blake Greenlee, chairman of the ANSI working group responsible for X9.31.

"Used with the validation procedures under development, financial institutions can purchase and install ANSI-compliant RSA digital signature cryptography to secure high-value transactions and other confidential client information."

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