IBM upgrades mainframe to speed data encryption

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Credit card or personal data transactions getting processed through IBM equipment will soon benefit from "one-click" data encryption in a powerful new mainframe.

The IBM Z will be capable of processing more than 12 billion encrypted transactions per day, at a speed of about 18 times faster than current equipment, IBM said in a Monday announcement.

High-speed encryption will go a long way in providing extra security for credit card transactions, 87% of which are currently processed through IBM's transaction engine, or about $8 trillion worth of payments each year, Caleb Barlow, IBM security vice president, said in a CNBC interview.

IBM hardware already supports the faster payments systems of Vocalink and The Clearing House. A chip the size of a postage stamp will bring the encryption capabilities to the new mainframe and also upgrade current IBM servers.

Only about 4% of all transactions – payments and personal data – actually are encrypted, Barlow said. "The primary reason for that is, not only is the math complicated, but the processing time is just too expensive on traditional hardware," he told CNBC.

The IBM Z will be used initially as an encryption engine for IBM's cloud computing technology and blockchain services, the company said.

IBM has also recently advanced its support of Internet of Things payments through a partnership with Visa.

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