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Shop ’til You Drop: Standards Protect Shoppers on Cyber Monday

New York, Nov 30, 2009

As Americans return to the office today after a long weekend of family dinners and Black Friday shopping, many will turn to the Internet for bargains on electronics, jewelry, clothing, and other gifts for the upcoming holidays. Deemed “Cyber Monday,” the first weekday after the Thanksgiving weekend is one of the biggest Internet shopping days of the year, and standards are in place to assure that the related transactions are smooth and secure.

According to industry group, forty-two percent of Americans plan to shop online on Cyber Monday, leading to millions of financial transactions over the Internet. When making online purchases, shoppers are nearly always required to provide a credit card number and other personal information to complete a transaction. Standards are in place to assure that this information is securely sent to the retailer. ISO/IEC 18033, Encryption Algorithms, is an International Standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) / International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1) Subcommittee (SC) 27 that helps ensure the confidentiality of personal information shared over the Internet. When a user inputs their personal or financial information during the checkout process, a cipher is applied to the plain text, turning it into encrypted data that can be safely transmitted. Once the data is received by the retailer, the cipher is once again applied to decrypt the data, returning it to plain text.

Why Not Cyber Sunday?

Cyber Monday, a term coined in 2005 by the National Retail Federation’s, gained popularity when office workers would wait until the work week to use the office’s high-speed Internet for online holiday shopping.

Since then, high-speed Internet in homes has become much more common – but the term stuck. Internet retailers now use Cyber Monday as an opportunity to offer discounts and draw in holiday shoppers that may have stayed home on Black Friday.

The InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), a member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), serves as the ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator to this subcommittee.

Ciphers aren’t the only systems protecting private data on the internet. As consumers complete online transactions, the information that they enter is encrypted with the retailer’s public key. The retailer then decrypts the information with a private key, assuring that no outside sources have access to that information. Public key techniques are covered by a number of standards, including an American National Standard developed by IEEE, an ANSI member and accredited standards developer. IEEE 1363-2000, Standard Specifications for Public Key Cryptography, includes mathematical primitives for secret value (key) derivation, public-key encryption, and digital signatures, and cryptographic schemes based on those primitives.

Close to 100 million Americans will be shopping online this Cyber Monday, according to Thanks to national and international standards, these consumers can rest assured that their personal information will be kept secure while they score great discounts on their holiday purchases.

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