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January 2004

Ron Rivest, RSA Algorithm Creator, discusses issues with micropayments

After nearly three decades of tackling some of the world's hardest cryptography problems, Ron Rivest is turning his attention to another tough nut: "micropayment" schemes for e-commerce transactions. Along with MIT colleague Silvio Micali, Rivest is serving as the technical brains behind Peppercoin, a Waltham, Mass., startup that hopes to make big bucks helping e-tailers increase the security, efficiency and profitability of low-cost Web-based transactions, such as digital songs, games and copyrighted articles. We caught up with Rivest at his MIT office in Cambridge, Mass., to find out more about Peppercoin, and to get his insight on other pressing Internet security issues. ISM: Tell me about Peppercoin. RIVEST: It's the right way to do microbusiness, because the technology hits the key difficulty on the head: the problem of efficiency. ISM: Why is efficiency important? RIVEST: Because it keeps the bank out of the payment processing loop for every transaction. Every payment doesn't go back to some central place, which is a huge ...

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