Patent lapse cuts security costs

Computer security costs in Australia are set to drop 'substantially' now that RSA Security's key encryption algorithm is in the public domain.

The end of RSA's 17-year patent on the algorithm will stimulate the Australian security market according to RSA rival Baltimore Technologies.

Mike Jefferies, Asia-Pacific region business consultant at Baltimore, said the end of RSA's long reigning dominance over the technology will reduce costs "substantially" particularly in the enterprise arena.

He said it will also create more options for developers to incorporate Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) into their applications.

"Costs to enterprises deploying encryption in Australia will drop dramatically. We will see a radical difference with a greater uptake of security products; it will certainly address the cost- problems associated with deploying e-mail security across an enterprise,"Jefferies said.

"Baltimore no longer has to develop one product for the US and another for the rest of the world as it was a very expensive process.''Although the patent formally expired on September 20, RSA relinquished its ownership two weeks before that date.

Since the algorithm was patented in 1983 US companies wanting to use it had to obtain a licence from RSA.

Baltimore immediately responded by announcing to the US market the availability of its Key Tools development suite, which is required to build applications for digital certificate-based systems.

Jim Alderson, engineering director at eSecurity, said the patent slowed PKI growth.

Acknowledging user complaints against PKI due to its lack of application support, Alderson said: "It has been puzzling to me why RSA was so protective of this algorithm making it more difficult to use PKI."

While RSA tried to downplay the release of its patent, Meta Group security analyst David Thompson said it is a very big deal.

"There certainly have been a number of vendor organisations that I've run into that had to cancel products they were going to release or scale plans back because of RSA restrictions," Thompson said.

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