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Australian Banks Go To Baltimore For Digital Certificates

Australian banks have chosen Baltimore, a partly-local multinational, as the preferred vendor of digital certificates for their payment clearing activities.

Baltimore won a tender to provide certification technology and services put out by the Australian Payments Clearing Association (APCA), which is owned by an alliance of Australian banks, building societies and credit unions.

The APCA will use Baltimore's UniCERT software to generate digital certificates by acting as a certificate authority (CA) to its member financial institutions, the association said.

Some of these functions will also be outsourced to Certificates Australia, a CA which is run by Baltimore. A framework is being developed by the APCA to support its members' participation in electronic commerce, encompassing a body of policies and rules governing the issuance of digital certificates from APCA to its members and, in turn, from its members to their customers.

"Some work is still to be done before APCA is in position to issue digital certificates to its members, but the selection of a preferred service provider to APCA is an important milestone," said Dr Peter Smith, chief executive of the APCA.

The most visible recent initiative of the seven-year-old APCA has been its aim of reducing cheque clearance times to under three days. The organization is already responsible for managing four separate payment clearing systems.

Baltimore is the result of a merger last year of English vendor Zergo and US-based developer Baltimore Technologies, with Intel retaining a minority shareholding. Zergo had merged earlier in 1998 with Security Domain, a Sydney start-up whose staff will be the main providers of services on the APCA implementation.

The APCA win comes at a time when Baltimore is battling hard with rivals like Network Associates and Spyrus to secure preferred vendor status for the biggest public key infrastructure (PKI) project in Australia, the Federal Government's Project Gatekeeper.

"APCA's decision to appoint Baltimore as the preferred vendor for the payments industry reaffirms our strategy of investment into ITSEC E3 certification for our PKI products, and in achieving the high standards required for evaluation by the Federal Government's Gatekeeper accreditation body," said John Palfreyman, chief executive officer of Baltimore's Asia Pacific operation.