With the current trend towards more secure Internet transactions, financial institutions face difficult choices about which technologies to adopt.
While many banks and merchants have looked to smart cards and public key infrastructure encryption technology, others are steering clear of the need for consumers to carry a chip in their wallets.
"Online merchants are struggling between balancing security with convenience," said Ken Bob, CEO of SafeWWW, based in New York. "We're a better version of the smart card."
The SafeWWW approach is to tie authentication to the machine rather than to the person, by using an unique "hardware signature." SafeWWW installs "COM" (Component Object Model) software on the computer. The software component gathers a unique fingerprint from the machine, which it then uses to authenticate transactions. The solution only works with Windows-based machines at this time.
Initial authentication occurs by either mailing a password through the mail or by requesting personal data--such as a driver's license or social security number--for online authentication.
Current customers of SafeWWW include Spanish bank Caixaterassa, payment services firm ClearChex in Houston, Texas and CCI Networks, a managed security firm based in Phoenix, Ariz.