Business customers of ABN AMRO, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and HypoVereinsbank have started to incorporate the Identrus standard for digital signatures and digital certificates into their financial applications.
Identrus, a two-year-old financial industry consortium based in New York, currently boasts 34 members. Applications include commercial Internet banking (ABN AMRO, HypoVereinsbank), foreign exchange (ABN AMRO, Bank of America), e-marketplaces (Bank of America, Deutsche Bank), commercial insurance sales (HypoVereinsbank) and online bill payment (Deutsche Bank). Identrus also allows for a core layer of messaging and document transfer capabilities.
"In order to conduct real e-business and trusted e-business on the Internet, you need to have trust enablement," said Stephan Paxmann, Identrus program manager at Germany-based Deutsche Bank. "Without this, you'd have a perfect system for any untrustworthy person."
Deutsche Bank's db-eTrustCard was the first Identrus-based smart card to launch, using smart cards from Siemens. "Identrus is an open standard organization. It uses a certain infrastructure, but all of the rules and operational procedures are vendor-neutral," said Paxmann. Consequently, customers of different Identrus member banks can transact with one another.
"In order to become a 'Level 1' member of Identrus, with a direct connection to Identrus itself, you need to fulfill certain financial criteria-for example, a BBB+ rating from Standard & Poor's," said Paxmann. "However, we are absolutely aware that some of the smaller institutions should also join Identrus because it's certainly not a game of the multinational financial institutions."
To that end, Level 1 institutions will provide Level 2 institutions with risk management services, access to the Identrus framework, and in many cases, the technology to verify the digital certificates of online trading partners.
"All of our marketplace products that we issue in the next couple of months will use Identrus for the identification procedures," said Paxmann. "Identrus is the strategic security component and identification component within Deutsche Bank products."
Individuals conducting business using db-eTrustCard receive a client package consisting of the smart card itself, a smart card reader device and a small software driver that works with an Internet browser. The smart card has a 32K read-only memory chip that stores information used to create a digital signature and digital certificate for the exclusive use of the cardholder. After inserting the smart card into the reader and entering a PIN, the cardholder can then conduct online business as an Identrus user.
The smart card reader can be either an external device that attaches to an individual's computer or an industry standard PCMCIA card that plugs into a laptop. The standalone model can have a PIN keypad attached; otherwise, PIN verification occurs within the browser software.
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