Aiming to enhance the security of consumer purchases on the Internet, Cybercash Inc. has teamed up with Verisign Inc. to add a digital identification feature to its electronic payment product.
Last April, Cybercash began offering Internet users a payment tool known as a "wallet," which stores consumers' credit card numbers on secure software and transmits the numbers to a merchant when the consumer authorizes a purchase.
By the end of this year, the Cybercash wallet is to include an additional security feature: a digital identification coding system designed by Verisign.
"This basically enriches the electronic wallet," said Magdalena Yesil, a Cybercash vice president.
Officials at both companies compared Verisign's security product to a driver's license, saying it was an identification device that helped banks and merchants confirm information about a customer.
"Right now in your real-world wallet, you have your credit cards, maybe a checkbook and some cash, but you also have IDs," Ms. Yesil said. "This basically gives us the analog to that in the electronic world."
More than a dozen financial institutions have credit card service relationships with Reston, Va.-based Cybercash, including units of Wells Fargo & Co., Boatmen's Bancshares, First Union Corp. and Norwest Corp.
Last month, Cybercash announced it had registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering of two million shares of common stock. The company expects to begin trading next month.
Verisign president Stratton D. Sclavos described the Cybercash alliance as "a significant relationship."
"Both Cybercash and Verisign are young companies," Mr. Sclavos said. "But from a technology perspective, we are leading the marketplace in our respective areas."
Verisign was formed last year as a spinoff of RSA Data Security Inc., Redwood City, Calif., to promote and develop a digital certification system that can ensure security of Internet transactions.
While Verisign is also collaborating with powerful companies like International Business Machines Corp. and Netscape Communications, Mr. Sclavos said his company welcomed the additional affiliations that Cybercash brings to the table.
"One of the strengths, we think, of Cybercash is their relationships with the banking community and financial institutions at large," Mr. Sclavos said. "We're hoping to work with them to develop custom solutions for banks, rather than just piecing technologies together."
People who want to use the Cybercash wallet for Internet payments may download free software either from the company's Web site or from those of the 25 merchants that accept Cybercash payments.
Customers who use the system can purchase wine from Virtual Vineyards, clothing from Team Sportswear, and a variety of foods, clothing, and electronic products from other vendors.
The Cybercash wallet, which appears in that image on computer screens, currently stores and transmits only credit card numbers. Company officials say they expect by the end of the year to also be able to handle other forms of electronic currency, like electronic checks and digital cash.
Cybercash announced this week that its wallet is available in an Apple Macintosh version. Ms. Yesil said that as a result, "Cybercash makes payment a simple, safe, one-step process for all Internet customers."
By combining technologies, Cybercash and Verisign are accelerating a race with other forward-thinking young companies to establish payment standards for the Internet.
Bankers and analysts say they are evaluating the new technologies and waiting to see which ones will prove secure and gain consumer acceptance over time.
"We're going through a shakeout in the rat race right now," said Jerome Svigals, an electronic banking consultant in Redwood City, Calif. "What you're running into is a raft of proposals, and they cover a number of targets. The golden globe is to try to convince customers to get on board."