Entrust Technologies, a digital certification company with a strong presence in corporate and wholesale markets, has entered the Secure Electronic Transactions fray.

The Richardson, Tex.-based spinoff of Northern Telecom, still majority- owned by the Canadian telecommunications giant, said it will put an extension on the Entrust/Manager software to handle credit card transactions according to the MasterCard-Visa SET protocol.

Entrust is thus selling a capability that has mostly been associated with two other vendors: the U.S. telecommunications company GTE Corp. and the digital signature specialist Verisign Inc., a 1995 spinoff of RSA Data Security Inc.

Because Entrust is adding SET to its market-leading certification authority and key management line, it claims to be the only company with a single public key infrastructure for Internet, intranet, and SET-based security.

The credit card standard, which is reportedly nearing market readiness after a series of trials and refinements, requires issuance, management, and verification of cardholder, merchant, and financial institution certificates to authenticate each transaction.

The financial industry is counting on companies like GTE, Verisign, and Entrust to make these intricate processes easy enough to understand and implement that they create peace of mind and win public and merchant acceptance.

"SET opens doors to merchants and consumers who want to conduct business in this manner securely and with confidence," said John Ryan, Entrust Technologies president and chief executive officer. "With its new SET functionality, Entrust is demonstrating its capability to evolve its platform to support new industry standards."

When the extension is released in the fourth quarter, Entrust said, businesses will be able to issue certificates adhering to the SET 1.0 specification, as well as "enterprise certificates" for E-mail and other corporate intranet applications and "Web certificates" for browsers and servers using Secure Sockets Layer, another security protocol.

Thus one system covers a wide range of network security needs.

The Entrust announcement is also an indication that SET 1.0, the long- awaited "full production" version of the card-industry-sponsored payment protocol, is nearing reality. More evidence is likely to emerge as the American Bankers Association's Bank Card Conference approaches, Sept. 21-23 in Long Beach, Calif.

The electronic commerce alliance of GlobeSet Inc. and Tandem Computers Inc., a Compaq Computer Corp. subsidiary, said last week that it is first in the market with an SET 1.0 product. But the software is available only to participants in the Tandem Early Adopter Program. General availability is scheduled for early 1998, in line with other companies' expectations.

The early-stage announcement suggests Tandem and GlobeSet, an Austin, Tex., company seeded in 1994 by Bankers Trust New York Corp.'s BT Ventures, will be strong entries in the SET race. In July, GlobeSet and Tandem were involved in the first pre-SET 1.0 transaction in Switzerland, and GlobeSet had a hand in Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s initial SET demonstrations in June.

Like competing systems, their iTP-Internet Transaction Processing- products combine encryption and digital certificates at the cardholder, merchant, processor, and certification authority levels of a transaction. Components are known as iTP SET Wallet, iTP SET PayServer, iTP SET Payment Gateway, and iTP SET CA, for certification authority.

"By delivering the industry's first SET 1.0 product suite, Tandem and GlobeSet have given leading financial institutions and retailers the most advanced technology possible to create secure environments for Internet commerce," said Norman Goldberg, Tandem vice president for financial and services industry marketing.

"We've worked hard to become recognized leaders in our industry," said Michael Cation, GlobeSet chairman and chief executive officer. The announcement "shows we are ready to help our customers also be first to market in implementing a full suite of robust SET products for global, secure Internet transactions."

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