VeriSign Launches Broad Authentication Scheme

Nico Popp can see the day when proving who you are on the faceless Internet will be as easy as using a picture I.D. in the real world.

Popp is the point man for a new authentication program launched Monday by VeriSign, which runs the Net’s largest domains, .com and .net, its biggest certificate validation service and the root product code database for the RFID universe.

Popp, vice president of authentication services, compared the VeriSign Identity Protection (VIP) service to the existing ATM network used by banks.

Single Key to Internet

“In the ATM network, you get a card for the network, but the card also works in other banks because of a shared network,” he explained to TechNewsWorld from his office in Palo Alto, Calif.

With VIP, he continued, you get one device that you can use to authenticate yourself at network affiliates on the Web.

“The beauty of it is now you have one device that you can use across PayPal, across eBay, across Yahoo, to log into your bank online or buy stock online,” he said. “So really what you get is one key for the Internet.”

Big Name Support

In conjunction with the VeriSign announcement, PayPal, eBay and Yahoo announced their support of the VIP network.

“What makes this announcement significant is the fact that we have the leading communities on the Internet supporting VIP,” Popp said.

It’s estimated that Yahoo, PayPal and eBay have more than 250 million active users.

“We are supportive of VeriSign’s technology,” PayPal spokesperson Amanda Pires told TechNewsWorld. “We believe that when we offer their technology to our customers that it will be one more tool that they can use to protect themselves against identity theft.”

Details on when and how the system would be rolled out to PayPal customers have not been worked out yet, she added. However, the company has stated that it intends to issue one million authentication devices to its customers within the next three years.

More Members in Wings

Popp noted that more members, including banks and financial institutions would be announced in the coming weeks.

“This is attractive to financial institutions because it makes it much easier for them to do strong authentication,” he said.

They can use a shared infrastructure which, through economies of scale, can reduce their costs, he asserted, and they can outsource all the complexity of an authentication program to VeriSign.

“We will provide all the service they need, not only the hardware and the life cycle management, but we will do consumer fulfillment and first line support,” he observed.

According to a statement from VeriSign, the new system will be based on open standards defined by OATH, an industry-wide working group for authentication, which will allow it to accommodate a number of authentication devices from USB keys to password-generating black boxes to cell phones.

Fraud Detection System

Among the first hardware makers to jump on the VeriSign bandwagon is SanDisk, which announced Tuesday that it would be embedding VIP capability and OATH-compliant one-time password technology into its TrustedFlash line of USB drives.

In addition to securing a cybernaut’s identity, the VIP network will include a fraud detection system similar to the one used by credit card companies to detect the unauthorized use of their plastic.

That system uses a fraud engine that’s transparent to consumers and network members to flag transaction anomalies in an account in real time.

Popp maintained that VIP will protect consumers from Net crimes like phishing, pharming and identity theft.

He explained that the system foils phishers by putting a hardware device that they can’t get their hands on between them and a webster’s personal information.

“They’d have to physically rob you to get the device,” he noted.

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