ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Last-Minute Online Shopping a Safe Venture Thanks to ANSI Members

New York, Dec 19, 2002

With only a few days left until Christmas, many a harried gift giver may be wondering what shopping options are still available this close to deadline. In the crunch of the holiday season, many online vendors are advertising last-minute shipping options, telling shoppers they have one or two days left to order for guaranteed Christmas delivery. Anyone who takes advantage of this option will be among the millions of shoppers who have already fulfilled their Christmas lists by shopping online.

A recent article in USA Today reported that this year has been the most successful one yet for online retailers. Sales for the fourth-quarter, which includes the holiday shopping season, are expected to total $13.8 billion, a 27% increase from last year. This may come as a slight surprise considering the amount of publicity surrounding online security and identity theft. Several security devices are in place, however, to prevent credit card theft, and security is only getting better, thanks to a recent law passed by the U.S. government and the actions of several ANSI members.

The "Cyber Security Research and Development Act" (H.R. 3394) was signed into law by President Bush on November 27, 2002. According to Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-NY, chairman of the House Science Committee and sponsor of the legislation, the Act will greatly expand federal funding for cyber security research and education. It allocates more than $903 million in grants over five years to federal agencies, industry and universities to ensure that the U.S. is better prepared to prevent and combat terrorist attacks on private and government computers, and it is likely to produce spin-off technologies that will be more generally applicable.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has been tasked with establishing new cyber security research centers, undergraduate program grants, community college grants and fellowships. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an ANSI member, will be called upon to establish new programs for partnerships between academia and industry.

As an example, the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), an ANSI-accredited standards developer, recently partnered with the Communications Security Establishment of the Government of Canada to jointly produce a new work item proposal for producing an international standard specifying security requirements for cryptographic modules at one of four different levels of security. INCITS Technical Committee T4 and the Communications Security Establishment of the Government of Canada will each supply a co-editor for this international project.

INCITS is also working to improve security for online consumers through the creation of a new standard covering Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption, an industry-standard security program that protects information such as credit card numbers by encoding them before transferring over the Internet. A number of online retailers, including (four days left to order there) and Barnes & Noble online (order until the 23rd), use SSL to protect their customers. Information about a site's security procedures can typically be found within its Privacy Policy.

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