ABA to Offer Online Authentication

FRAMINGHAM (07/19/2000) - The American Bankers Association (ABA) is planning to announce on Thursday the launch of TrustID, an online identification system that's expected to be used by banks to authenticate digital signatures.

According to e-strategies director Stephen Schutze, the ABA hopes the TrustID system will counter similar efforts by start-ups such as VeriSign Inc. and put banks back in charge of digital signature authentication.

"Banks are trusted parties," Schutze said. "And banks know their customers."

He added that the ABA is looking for input on the specifications of the system from banks, other industry groups such as securities and insurance industry associations and online business-to-business exchange companies such as Commerce One Inc..

Although the full details of the system haven't yet been determined, the premise will be for banks to provide both retail and business customers with an electronic ID that could be downloaded onto a computer or wireless device. The IDs could then be used to confirm the identity of a party, such as a company that's engaged in online business negotiations arising from business-to-business exchanges.

In addition, these IDs -- or digital certificates -- could be used to "seal" a document. "Once a document is 'signed,' the system will confirm that the document was not later changed," Schutze said.

Documents will be transmitted along with a digital signature to reflect the current state of the document. "If a single bit of the document is changed, the signature won't match anymore," Schutze said.

All the processing and verification work will be done by Salt Lake City-based Digital Signature Trust Co., which will serve as a central clearinghouse for the system, he added. That's the same company that provided the digital signature authentication that was used when President Clinton signed the Digital Signature Act into law earlier this month, said ABA spokesman John Hall.

Zions Bank, which owns Digital Signature Trust, already offers an early version of the system.

Schutze said the details of the TrustID process should be finalized by year's end.

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