August 28, 1997 1:05 PM PDT

Entrust to enter SET fray

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Entrust Technologies, which builds software to issue digital certificates for corporations, will announce next week that it's jumping into the certificate business for secure credit card purchases over the Internet.

Entrust will release by year's end an extension to its basic software to support How digital IDs work / go to infographic certificates for the Secure Electronic Transactions (SET) protocol as a standard for using charge cards safely on the Net. SET was developed jointly by Visa and MasterCard,

"We've been on the sidelines with regard to SET so far, but now with the SET 1.0 protocol having been defined, we think there's going to be significant deployment," said Bill McKee, Entrust's director of software development.

"Our financial customers want an infrastructure that supports enterprise security, Web-based security, and SET-based security," McKee added. "That's what will differentiate us, our ability to support certificates of different types with a single infrastructure."

Digital certificates serve as an electronic ID that verifies the identity of a user, a key requirement for Internet commerce between unknown parties and for intranet access to restricted information within companies.

Entrust's basic software, called a public-key infrastructure or PKI, lets companies issue certificates for employees, partners, or customers. Entrust's new SET module will let banks, its chief target for the new offering, issue SET certificates to consumers, Web storefronts, and payment gateways that process Internet credit card purchases.

"This means Entrust isn't pigeonholed in the enterprise market," said Scott Smith, analyst at Current Analysis. "Even though there's going to be great use of certificates in the enterprise market, it's important for somebody like Entrust to get into the kind of market SET will bring them to--the consumer market."

To date, Entrust has sold its CA software to customers like Scotiabank, a Canadian bank that will use the software both for home banking and for internal purposes. Entrust's new offering will give Scotiabank, and customers like it, the ability to issue SET certificates with the same software.

Entrust will not itself issue SET certificates, McKee said. The company plans to sell its software to customers who want to run service bureaus to do so.

The nascent SET certificate market is today divided among VeriSign, IBM, and GTE's CyberTrust unit. VeriSign has a contract as the preferred certificate issuer for Visa, and CyberTrust has similar pacts with MasterCard and American Express.

But McKee thinks Entrust won't be hurt by its relatively late entry into the SET market because all CA vendors must rework their software to cope with a November 15 switchover from a trial version of the SET protocol to the 1.0 version. At that time, all SET users will need certificates that comply with 1.0.

No pricing has been set for Entrust's SET module. Entrust's basic PKI software costs $9,000 to set up, then $159 per user, with volume discounts for more users.

Entrust was spun off in January from Northern Telecom (NT), Canada's giant telecommunications equipment manufacturer.

 

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