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VeriSign tests digital IDs

VeriSign tests its digital IDs, one of a series of moves to strengthen its position in digital certificates.

VeriSign today made a series of moves intended to strengthen its position as a leading issuer of digital certificates for secure Internet commerce.

The company today announced its digital IDs are being used in an interoperability test for electronic data interchange (EDI) over the Net. Furthermore, VeriSign announced that it can issue digital IDs to smart card users; demonstrated interoperability among several software vendors in a secure Internet credit card transaction; and signed up new customers in the increasingly competitive outsourcing arena.

VeriSign's chief rivals in the certification authority (CA) business include GTE's CyberTrust unit, and Entrust Technology, recently spun off as a separate company by Canada's telecommunications equipment giant Northern Telcom.

In the EDI trial, conducted last week and sponsored by e-commerce trade group CommerceNet, five software vendors exchanged digitally signed data over the Internet. EDI involves direct computer-to-computer communication using standard forms. EDI, often used by companies with continuing relationships, is generally done over secure private networks. Using the Net can cut costs significantly.

CommerceNet said the EDI trial first involved Actra Business Systems, Netscape Communications, and the GE Information Systems joint venture, AT&T, Digital Equipment, Premenos, and Sterling Commerce.

VeriSign announced it has opened an EDI Digital ID Center to issue digital IDs for EDI so companies can verify the identity of trading partners and ensure that a document has not been tampered with as it crosses the Internet.

VeriSign also said it can now issue digital IDs to smart card users.

"People confuse smart cards and digital IDs as competitors," said VeriSign CEO Stratton Sclavos. "In the future, smart cards will be the ultimate delivery of digital IDs."

The smart card demonstration involved smart card manufacturer Schlumberger, software giant Microsoft, and Litronics, which makes computer keyboards for many PC manufacturers. Microsoft has led an initiative to incorporate smart cards into PCs.

In another initiative, VeriSign announced new customers for its "private label" outsourcing services to issue digital IDs for companies. U.S. card issuer Novus Services and Japan's Toppan Printing have signed up for high-volume private label services from VeriSign. They join Visa, which announced in July it would use VeriSign's outsourcing service, and other unnamed partners.

The outsourcing market promises to be competitive. Entrust is providing technology to several outsourcing vendors, including IBM and TradeWave.

GTE today said its CyberTrust unit is offering similar outsourcing services. GTE, like Entrust, also will sell technology to enable a company to issue its own digital certificates as a certification authority.

In what VeriSign called a first, it issued a digital ID online to a Visa cardholder under the Secure Electronic Transactions (SET) protocol, which Visa and rival card issuer MasterCard are now finalizing. VeriSign also said it demonstrated what it claimed was the first issuance of a digital certificate over the Net involving software from multiple vendors--IBM, VeriFone, and Maithean's client software, called a "wallet," for buyers.

RSA Data Security, sponsor of the encryption conference where VeriSign made its announcement, on Tuesday will do a similar demonstration with credit card issuer American Express, Web commerce software vendor Open Market, and French smart card manufacturer GemPlus.