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Web-based Transactions Pilot Launched.

CertCo Inc., Entrust Technologies Inc. and GTE CyberTrust said they are participating in a pilot project designed for banks to enable consumers and merchants to make secure payments over the Internet.

The NACHA (National Automated Clearing House Association) Internet Council CA Interoperability Pilot is helping to define the business practices necessary to create a foundation for conducting secure electronic commerce among banks, businesses, consumers and government, the companies said.

Interoperability lets banks select the implementation which best meets their business needs, the firms stated, while enabling their consumers and merchants to securely authenticate themselves and then interact with any other consumer or merchant over the Internet. The pilot is aimed at allowing unknown trading partners to meet, confirm each other's digital identities, negotiate privately, digitally sign contracts, purchase goods and services and settle payments securely over the Web.

CertCo, Entrust and GTE CyberTrust, as part of the NACHA pilot, said that for the first time they achieved seamless inter-vendor compatibility using the technology that will realize this vision--digital certificates and signatures. The companies also said they demonstrated technological compatibility to ensure digital certificates are trustworthy when a party in a transaction relies on them.

The computer security vendors partnered with banks in the trial, which as trusted institutions are a natural choice to issue, manage and revoke digital certificates. The pilot proved, according to the companies, that a consumer can obtain a digital certificate from a bank, purchase something from a merchant, then use the certificate to digitally sign a debit authorization to pay the merchant. The pilot, which was observed and documented by NACHA, focused on technical interaction and business processes using digitally signed ACH debit authorizations, mock accounts and mock account information.

For the purposes of the pilot, the following vendors and banks were paired: CertCo and Digital Signature Trust with Zions Bank; Entrust Technologies with Citibank; GTE CyberTrust with Mellon Bank; and VeriSign with Bank of America.

In the pilot, each bank demonstrated its ability to simultaneously issue digital certificates from one technology vendor while accepting transactions protected by certificates from another vendor. Also, each bank issued digital certificates to select merchants to establish direct debit accounts through which their customers could pay recurring consumer bills, such as their phone or water bills, with complete security.

"The Internet Council pilot is a critical step in developing operating rules and business practices for multi-purpose digital certificates,'' said Elliott C. McEntee, president and CEO of NACHA. "The pilot creates a foundation for making the Internet a secure vehicle for conducting commerce among banks, businesses, consumers and government.''

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