Net's pounds 30bn secret is revealed

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The Independent Online

Technology Correspondent

A French student has cracked the most commonly used encryption system used to pass financial transactions over the Internet, threatening a business forecast to be worth pounds 30bn worldwide.

Damien Doligez, 27, a PhD student at the Inria research centre near Paris, broke a software "key" used by the Netscape browsing program, which lets users navigate the World Wide Web.

With Netscape, Internet users can visit shopping "sites" on the Web and order goods by sending their credit card and address over the network to the site. To prevent anyone picking up those confidential details as they pass through the network, they are encrypted first using a software "key". This is the system used by Barclays Bank's "BarclaySquare" project, launched in May, which offers access to eight major retailers.