One of Poland's largest banks has introduced an Internet service with a feature not yet prevalent in the U.S. consumer market.
To bolster on-line security, customers of Powszechny Bank Gospodarczy, known as PBG, are given a Digipass, a hand-held device that generates a one-time, random-number access code.
Using this in addition to a personal identification number-a procedure known as two-factor authentication that is more common in bank money- transfer and other high-security operations-brings the full Internet banking service to the desktop.
Digipass developer Vasco Data Security Inc. has sold it to more than 115 financial institutions, none in the United States.
Vasco of Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., said one large North American bank is about to give Digipass to thousands of business customers for secure access to cash management services.
European banks need to be more concerned about Web site security than U.S. banks, because American browsers use stronger data encryption, said Octavio Marenzi, research director at Meridien Research Inc. in Needham, Mass. Domestic software companies have been under restrictions-many of them now being lifted-on exporting stronger forms of encryption.
The United States "has relied on the browser, while Europe has had to use things outside the browser for additional security," Mr. Marenzi said. "European banks have had to be more creative."
PBG is concerned about hackers, said Janusz Gladyszewski, a bank vice president. A few months ago attacks were detected, but they failed.
"As one of the leading banks in Poland, it is our duty to guarantee the future needs of our clients through a product proven in the remote banking security sector," he said.
The PBG Web site, which debuted in mid-October, lets customers and companies view their account histories for the past 300 days and do on-line bill payments.
"We want to give our clients new possibilities and the ability to make contact with the bank without coming in," Mr. Gladyszewski said.
About 400 customers and 10 small businesses have gotten Digipasses so far. PBG has more than three million account holders and 200,000 business clients. It hopes to have 1,000 people using Digipass by yearend, Mr. Gladyszewski said.
Interest in Internet banking is growing in Eastern Europe, he said. About 1.5 million of the 40 million people in Poland are on the Internet, and demand for home banking is evident, Mr. Gladyszewski said.
Internet banking has been slow to take off in Eastern Europe, Mr. Marenzi said, because incomes and profit potential are low and personal computers relatively scarce.
LOS GATOS, Calif.-SCM Microsystems Inc. announced the availability of a smart card reader for personal computers. The SwapSmart USB, or Universal Serial Bus, reader-demonstrated last week at the Cartes '98 show in Paris- prepares most new desktop and notebook devices for secure electronic commerce. It meets the needs of corporate technology managers seeking "readers that are cost-effective and easy to configure," said president Steve Humphreys.