said today it will bundle a
digital certificate with
its NetSign smart-card reader/writer, apparently the first such pairing.
Litronic's announcement links two technologies, both still somewhat obscure
in the United States, that many regard as crucial for Internet commerce and
Digital certificates, also called digital IDs, vouch for the identity of a
person or Web site where two parties cannot see each other. Based on public
key cryptography, they serve as an identity card for applications such as
secure email, Internet purchases, or access to sensitive data on a network.
Smart cards are credit card-sized plastic cards with an embedded computer chip
that can store or process limited amounts of data. Many security
specialists see smart cards as a logical storage device for digital IDs
because they can be transported by a user for use in multiple machines. They
also can be used for electronic cash, physical access to buildings, and
Forrester Research thinks security
and loyalty programs, such as airline frequent flyer programs, will create
a market for smart cards, but analyst Karen Epper doesn't see the market
taking off quickly.
"This is just one step along the way," she said of the Litronic-VeriSign
announcement. "So far this market has a lot of positive but evolving
happenings--there's no big boom in smart cards."
Litronic's NetSign includes a smart card reader, a smart card, and the
relevant software. With the new VeriSign bundle, NetSign purchases can
download a "class 1" VeriSign digital certificate, valued at $9.95 retail,
from Litronic's Web site.
The Litronic product fully integrates with Netscape Communications' secure email
(S/MIME) software and works with Netscape's secure transport,
authentication and authorization (SSL), and object-signing.