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VeriSign offers services, software

The company unveils new products and announces a series of customers for its digital IDs.

SAN FRANCISCO--Expanding its market opportunities as it prepares to go public, VeriSign today unveiled new products and announced a series of customers for its digital IDs.

At the RSA Data Security Conference here, VeriSign announced that it now offers a hybrid mix of services and software products, through its WorldTrust architecture, to customers that want to issue digital certificates to employees and suppliers. Previously VeriSign had primarily offered a service, though in September it announced its OnSite product, which let companies issue digital IDs while VeriSign managed the back-end.

VeriSign also named NationsBank (NB) and British Telecom as customers, heading a list of banking and telecommunications firms and government agencies that have opted for VeriSign.

Digital certificates serve as electronic ID cards for cyberspace, verifying the identity of an individual or Web site in electronic transactions or email between two parties not known to each other. VeriSign issues 14 kinds of digital certificates, including ones for secure email (S/MIME), online credit card purchases (SET), secure communications (SSL), and electronic data interchange (EDI), which automates e-commerce transactions between computers.

VeriSign's announcement puts the company into more direct competition with its two largest competitors, Entrust Technologies and GTE CyberTrust. Entrust sells its public key infrastructure (PKI) software to corporations, while CyberTrust offers both a CA software product and runs a certificate-issuing service.

But VeriSign's hybrid approach lets customers decide which parts of the certificate process they want to handle themselves--such as authenticating the identities of customers before issuing digital Ids--and which parts VeriSign might perform.

VeriSign's new software products include an Automated Authentication Manager to integrate with legacy databases, Automated Lifecycle Manager to handle revocation, renewal and directory services; Secure Server Manager for centralized certificate management; and Smart Card/Key Manager to handle certificates on smart cards.

"We intend to be a large player in digital and electronic commerce," said Roger White, a VeriSign customer and vice president in the information security unit of NationsBank, the third largest U.S. bank. Initially the bank will use digital certificates to let some 10,000 customers handle cash management or treasury services plus currency transactions over the Internet.

White said some customers will use Internet treasury services with VeriSign certificates this quarter. The distributed nature of VeriSign's security architecture will let its major corporate customers decide who within their finance departments gets a digital ID for Net-based services.

BT said it will migrate its digital certificate business from the United States, where VeriSign's secure facility is located, to Great Britain, where it will be run by a combination of VeriSign and BT personnel.