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NCB Releases Licensing Regs For CA's In Singapore

The National Computer Board (NCB) has just released the Electronic Transactions Certificate Authority (CA) Regulations for the licensing of CA's in Singapore.

All CA's, including foreign companies operating in Singapore, who meet the NCB's operational, financial, and security criteria can apply for the license. They have to pay an application fee of S$5,000 (US$2,954). An annual licensing fee of S$1,000 (US$591) and a banker's guarantee of S$1 million apply once the license is approved.

A licensed CA will enjoy the benefits of evidentiary presumption for digital signatures generated from the certificate it issues. With such a presumption, the onus is on the party disputing the signature to prove otherwise.

Other benefits include limitations in liability as prescribed in the Electronic Transactions Act (ETA) enacted in 1998. As long as the CA has complied with the requirements under the ETA and the CA Regulations, it will not be liable for any loss caused by a subscriber's reliance on a forged digital signature. In the event that a licensed CA failed to observe some of its obligations, the CA will only be liable up to the reliance limit specified in the certificate.

"The ETA makes all digital signatures as legally binding as hand-written signatures," said Charles Lim, deputy head of the Attorney-General's Chambers' legislation division, "and the CA Regulations provide for the licensing of CA's. You will not have the presumption of the law if [there are no] licensed CA's. Some parts of the Act do not work if there are no licensed CA's."

The CA licensing scheme is voluntary and is more akin to an ISO-type certification, said Stephen Yeo, chief executive of the NCB, who has just been appointed NCB's controller of CA's.

With the launch of this new scheme, the NCB will be the regulatory agency for CA's in Singapore. The controller will regulate, license, and oversee CA's' activities in Singapore.

The NCB will also be divesting its shares in Netrust Pte Ltd., the first CA in South East Asia and a joint venture between the NCB and Network for Electronic Transfers (Singapore) Pte Ltd. (NETS).

Currently, the NCB has a 51 percent stake in Netrust.

We are going to talk to NETS first about selling the shares to them, said Goh Seow Hiong, NCB's assistant controller of CA's. "If they are not interested, we will open it to the commercial sector."

Goh said besides commercial companies, potential buyers include any government body who is interested in the business of CA's.

"It will require two to three months to divest our shares in Netrust," said Yeo.