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Sun nabs Trustbase for encryption software

Sun Microsystems today acquired Trustbase, a British company whose identity authentication software will be integrated into Sun-Netscape Alliance e-commerce software.

Sun Microsystems will announce today it's acquiring Trustbase, a British company whose encryption software will be integrated into Sun-Netscape Alliance e-commerce software.

Trustbase, a private company, is the owner of JCP Computer Services, maker of software used to guarantee the identity of a company involved in a financial transaction on the Internet. The software is intended to identify a person or organization so that the digital transaction is legally binding in the way a signature is today.

The ultimate goal for the software is to ease electronic transactions of money for banks or other financial institutions. Though credit card transactions on the Internet are common today, not all initiatives to move more money over the Internet have been successful. The Secure Electronic Transaction standard backed by Visa, for example, hasn't had much success in the United States.

Terms of the deal weren't announced.

The Sun-Netscape Alliance, a cooperative arrangement that resulted from America Online's 1998 acquisition of Netscape, sells software under the iPlanet moniker targeted at businesses that want to move operations to the Internet.

JCP has developed encryption software that ties in with the Identrus secure transaction initiative backed by several financial institutions, including ABN AMRO, Bank of America, Barclays Bank, Chase Manhattan, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Hypo Vereinsbank.

Identrus selected the Sun-Netscape Alliance to develop a working implementation of software that meets Identrus standards, said David Littlewood of Sun's Financial Services Group. When the new software goes on sale, it's expected to be first used by financial institutions, but also to be adopted by insurance and manufacturing industries.

The Trustbase software is being used at pilot projects at financial institutions, Sun said.

There is software today to guarantee the identity of parties in a two-way exchange, "but we think the market will grow and evolve toward multiparty transactions," Littlewood said. In particular, it will be useful for business-to-business transactions, he said.

The software will be sold on its own or bundled with other iPlanet software from the Sun-Netscape Alliance, said Steve Borcich, vice president of iPlanet's e-commerce security solutions unit.