Surety Technologies this week unveiled an upgraded version of its digital notary service that the company expects will appeal to the high- volume authentication needs of financial services companies.

The Reston, Va., company also said it recently put the latest version, Digital Notary Service 3.0, through its paces, proving it could handle 500 million transactions in eight hours.

Surety has separated the latest version into discrete software components to increase reliability. Each component has backups, so any problem with one component would not cause a systemwide outage. The company touts its notarization service as the only one offering "irrefutable proof" that an electronic record existed at a particular time and has not been altered since.

Jim Hurley, managing director of information security at the Aberdeen Group, a Boston technology research organization, said other companies offer products for protecting and validating digital content. But he said "the technology Surety is using and the primary business model of providing a service instead of a product are both unique."

The ability to verify that a digital document existed at a specific time could prove invaluable for on-line brokerages interested in bolstering customer trust, said Barry Libenson, executive vice president of Surety.

"We look at all different types of services, but when it comes to maintaining the integrity of a document, our opinion is that nobody does it better than Surety," said Rob Garrigan, executive vice president of sales and business development at Intralinks Inc., a New York provider of Web- based document transmission for large financial transactions.

Chase Manhattan Corp. and J.P. Morgan & Co. are among those that use Intralinks and have access to Surety's digital notary service. Another Surety client, NetDox, incorporates the notary service into on-line document delivery.

Rather than selling software, Surety gives it away and charges a fee for each notarization. It ranges from 13 cents to $1 per transaction, depending on volumes.

The company, which was spun off from Bell Corp. in 1994, says its system complements the use of digital signatures.

"We have partnerships with folks in the digital signatures business," Mr. Libenson said. "They do the 'who' part. We do the 'where' and 'when' part."

In its notary function, Surety's system uses algorithms to create a "digital fingerprint" unique to the document, which will leave tell-tale signs if tampered with. The code is sent to Surety's server via the Internet or a dedicated line.

"All you are ever sending is a 288-bit file, so it doesn't take much time, no matter how large the original file," said Rone Lewis, Surety's vice president of business development.

"Deleting one letter in a one gigabyte file will completely change the digital fingerprint," he said.

The user then gets a notary record with the exact time the file was notarized as well as other information needed for verification.

Surety's process for assuring users that files will not be altered has been patented. It includes the publishing of mathematical "hash values" to create what the company calls "a widely witnessed system." A change in any notarized file will produce an inaccurate root hash value.


PLANO, Tex.-Entrust Technologies Inc. said it is supplying public key infrastructure technology to Royal Bank of Scotland.

The Scottish bank is the 18th major European financial institutions to choose Entrust as its data encryption supplier. The public key infrastructure, or PKI, is used to manage digital certificates and related tools for assuring security of on-line transactions and commercial activities.

The bank picked Entrust after observing that other customers, including Bank of Nova Scotia in Canada, were able to roll out PKIs quickly and manage large numbers of certificates efficiently, said a Royal Bank spokesman.

In another win for Entrust's PKI, BCE Emergis in Canada was chosen to make a large-scale digital certificate deployment on behalf of BCE Inc., the Bell Canada organization. BCE Emergis, an electronic commerce venture using Entrust technology, is to issue digital certificates to 38,000 employees initially and, eventually, to 58,000 for secure on-line communications.

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