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New PGP software gives online privacy a boost

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NEW YORK (AP) — The leading developer of software for scrambling sensitive information sent through e-mail is trying to get Internet users to take privacy more seriously by automating many of the required steps.

Though Pretty Good Privacy software has been available for more than a decade, few people use it to keep passwords and credit card numbers from potential snoops. Sending e-mail using PGP has been cumbersome. Users must create encryption keys and persuade recipients to create and distribute them.

"It's too scary for people," said Andrew Krcik, vice president of marketing for PGP Corp.

Last week, the company announced a new product, PGP Universal, which streamlines the process. The software will automatically create and store a key for you if you don't already have one. Your friend doesn't have a key? The software takes care of that as well, offering your friend a secure Web site for picking up PGP mail.

"PGP Universal reduces the need to rely on users to comply with security policy," said Don Michniuk, corporate manager of information security at Bechtel Corp., which is testing the product.

Prices start at $3,500. The product is aimed at corporations, governments and other institutions and won't protect e-mail from bosses and others within the network. For that, you'd need the regular PGP products for the desktop.