Communication Security

The privacy of the communications between you (your browser) and our servers is ensured using encryption. Encryption scrambles messages exchanged between your browser and our server. Encryption happens as follows: When you begin the checkout process, your browser establishes a secure session with our server. The secure session is established using a protocol called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Encryption. This protocol requires the exchange of what are called public and private keys. Keys are random numbers chosen for that session and are only known between your browser and our server. After the keys are exchanged, your browser will use the numbers to scramble (encrypt) the messages sent between your browser and our server. Both sides require the keys because they need to de-scramble (decrypt) the messages when they are received. The SSL protocol not only ensures privacy, but also ensures that no other web site can "impersonate" our web site, nor alter any of the information sent. You can tell whether your browser is in secure mode by looking for the secured lock symbol at the bottom of your browser window.

Encryption Level

The numbers used as encryption keys are analogous to combination locks. The strength of encryption is based on the number of possible combinations that a lock can have. As the number of possible combinations grows, it becomes less likely that anyone would be able to guess the combination in order to decrypt the message. Today's browsers offer 40-bit encryption, or 128-bit encryption. Although both result in a large number of possible combinations (240 and 2128 respectively), for your protection, our servers require the browser to connect at 128-bit encryption. Shoppers will be unable to access the checkout functions at lesser encryption levels. This may require some shoppers to upgrade their browser to the stronger encryption level in order to checkout.

How do I know if my browser supports 128 bit encryption?

To determine if your browser supports 128-bit encryption, click on "Help" in the toolbar of your Internet browser and click on "About [browser name]". A pop-up box or window will display. For Internet Explorer - Next to "Cipher strength" you should see "128-bit". For Netscape - the following text should appear: "This version supports high-grade (128-bit) security with RSA Public Key Cryptography".

If your browser does not support 128-bit encryption, you will need to upgrade to a browser that does in order to continue to access secure pages of the website. Supported browsers include Netscape Navigator 4.75, Internet Explorer 5.0 or 6.0, and AOL 6, 7 or 8, but other browsers that support 128-bit encryption may also work.