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More firms certified for SET

Four companies have their "wallet" software certified for secure credit card transactions over the Internet.

    Four vendors have had their "wallet" software certified for complying with the Secure Electronic Transactions (SET) protocol, a small step toward implementing the protocol for secure credit card transactions over the Internet, according to an announcement due Thursday.

    Hewlett-Packard's VeriFone division is on the list, but IBM, which joined the testing program late, isn't. Also certified were GlobeSet, Trintech, and Spyrus/Terisa Systems.

    Those four vendors can display an SET logo on their products after passing tests overseen by SETCo, a company formed by SET sponsors Visa and MasterCard along with other payment companies backing SET. The SET mark indicates the software complies with version 1.0 of the protocol published one year ago.

    But vendors acknowledge that getting wallet software certified is the easy part. Still to be tested are SET-based software for merchant "cash registers," bank gateways that link Internet card transactions to existing bank card networks, and certificate authorities that issue the digital IDs required of buyers, sellers, and banks in SET transactions.

    After that, vendors must show interoperability so that a GlobeSet wallet can communicate with VeriFone merchant software, and the VeriFone retailer software can communicate with bank gateway software from IBM.

    But SET boosters still cheered SETCo's first certifications as a sign of progress.

    "SET has rolled out more slowly than many people originally expected, so this is a proof point that SET is real and moving forward," said Tom Wills, a VeriFone senior manager for industry relations. Adoption of SET will be a long-term process, he said, noting that new payment technologies like debit cards have taken 10 to 15 years to find broad acceptance.

    But the SETCo certification announcement is the first major news from the SET consortium this year. In fact, a March announcement by Open Market that it has won software patents on its Internet commerce technology raised the possibility that the basic technology in SET would fall under Open Market's patents.

    Interoperability testing is required because the SET protocol includes a number of options within it, so each vendor must make sure its software works with that of another company. IBM and VeriFone say their wallet software interoperate, and GlobeSet says its merchant software works with that of Visa. GlobeSet is also testing with IBM for interoperability.

    Additional announcements of SET certification for wallets may come within a month, Visa said, with certification merchant, gateway, and CA software expected through the summer.

    According to a matrix on SETCo's Web site, 14 companies have submitted software to be tested for SET compliance, including Japan's Fujitsu.