Verisign Inc. has added Warwick Ford to its brain trust.

Mr. Ford, a former senior manager at Nortel Secure Networks, was named director of advanced technology. Verisign president Stratton Sclavos said the role will be crucial to the company's maintaining leadership in the digital certification market.

Digital certificates, or electronic signatures, are a security requirement in the MasterCard-Visa Secure Electronic Transactions protocol and will be incorporated in many modes of on-line commerce.

Though competing against GTE Corp. and other digital certificate approaches, Verisign describes itself as the only company 100% dedicated to the business and creating a global infrastructure for it.

Mr. Ford, whose hiring parallels that of digital-signature legal expert Michael Baum last year, is a "preeminent authority on public-key certificate technology and practices," Mr. Sclavos said. Mr. Ford is author of a 1994 book, "Computer Communications Security."

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