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    ATM Upgrades By 2005

    Retailers caught off guard "could stop processing transactions," group warns.

    NEW YORK -- ATM transactions are secured using a personal identification number (PIN) to prevent fraud, and encryption is used to protect the PIN by scrambling it so it is unreadable by a third party. The current encryption method is known as DES (Data Encryption Standard), which uses a single secret key to encrypt the PIN at the ATM, according to Nationwide Money Services Inc., and independent ATM management company in Ponte Verdra Beach, Fla. The same key is used again to decrypt the PIN after the processor receives it to verify identity.

    However, as technology becomes more sophisticated, the encryption process has been called into question, and will be changing to what is known as Triple DES. Using the same encryption method, the process is repeated three times using two secret keys rather than one time with one key, and this process will take effect around April 1, 2005.

    "If your ATM is not upgraded to use Triple DES encryption security system by sometime around April 1, 2005, your ATM could stop processing transactions," said Sharon Jackson of Nationwide Money Services Inc.

    If a retailer is not planning to purchase a new ATM machine, upgrades are available, explained Jackson. Retailers can contact their ATM manufacturer for a kit and hire an ATM service technician to install it before the deadline.

    "They can also contact their ATM management company," said Jackson. "If their ATM is not capable of supporting Triple DES, and an upgrade kit is not going to be available for it, retailers will have to purchase a new ATM that is Triple DES compliant, or a used ATM that has, or is going to have, an upgrade kit available for it."

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