Intuit Inc. and MasterCard International said Tuesday they will use a security protocol developed by Netscape Communications Corp. to protect on- line financial data.

The companies agreed to apply Netscape's system to credit card, debit card, charge card, and electronic cash transactions made over open computer networks like the Internet.

The involvement of Intuit, maker of the popular Quicken financial software product, reflects that company's plans to go beyond personal banking and financial management into more lucrative on-line commercial services, said Adam Schoenfeld, a consultant at Jupiter Communications Co., a New York-based technology consulting firm.

He said Intuit may attach the Quicken brand "to some electronic mall- like ventures" or otherwise become more closely tied to developments on the commercial portions of the Internet's World Wide Web.

The Netscape alliance follows the announcement last week that Intuit had signed 19 banks and financial service companies to provide on-line banking services through Quicken.

MasterCard had already been working with Mountain View, Calif.-based Netscape on security measures for electronic commerce, an adjunct to the card group's home banking efforts. The two companies' Internet security project is to be combined with that of Visa International and Microsoft Corp. to create a single industry standard, the card associations announced last month.

Intuit could build the Netscape security protocol into its software to facilitate buying and selling over the Internet.

Bill Harrison, an executive vice president at Intuit, said he is confident that the Menlo Park, Calif., company will "offer some sort of on- line services."

"We intend to be active in many forms of electronic commerce," Mr. Harrison said. "A lot of it awaits adequate security." The security protocol, Secure Courier, will be available in September, he said.

Netscape's vice president of technology, Mark Andreessen, described Secure Courier as "the first open, cross-platform solution for on-line electronic payments, advancing Internet security to a new level."

"The safety of consumers' financial information is a top priority at Intuit," said Scott Cook, chairman and chief executive. "We enthusiastically support the development of open protocols such as Secure Courier, which will help enable secure electronic commerce on the Internet."

The system encloses information in a "digital envelope" that is transferred between the bank and the consumer through the merchant.

Without safeguards, merchants have easy access to sensitive information, according to Jeff Treuhaft, a product manager at Netscape. With Secure Courier, the transaction data are available to fewer people, thereby reducing risk.

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