Officials of two software firms say that the secure electronic transaction (SET) protocol, which relies on digital certificates for authentication and private communications, isn't safe enough. So much so that they beat MasterCard and Visa to the punch with a system that integrates smart cards and readers with SET. "SET is reasonably secure and it offers a lot of advantages over existing systems," says Mark Wolfe, president of Maithean, who's NetPay payment system is integrated with Litronic Inc.'s Datakey SignaSURE CIP smart card system. "That said, smart cards do add additional security."

Last year, Europay, MasterCard and Visa announced that the companies would jointly create a similar specification, though nothing has materialized to date. "We believe that when available and economically feasible, this will be an appropriate solution for many people, as opposed to a purely PC-based, software-based type of implementation," says Steve Mott, svp of electronic commerce, MasterCard. "Maithean and other companies have come up with some interesting developments that we think could further the acceptance of this type of solution in the marketplace."

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