NZ gets second public certification authority

E-commerce in New Zealand has advanced a step with the launch of the country's second digital certification provider.

E-commerce in New Zealand has advanced a step with the launch of the country’s second digital certification provider.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has set up a business unit, beTRUSTed, which will use public key infrastructure (PKI) technology to generate digital certificates that can authenticate users as well as provide encryption. Before the accountancy firm's entry, Baycorp ID Services, formerly 128i, was New Zealand’s only public certification authority.

PwC partner Jan Smolnicki says the service is aimed at organisations conducting large commercial transactions.

“PKI encrypts the whole message so that you can be sure no one has tampered with it. Digital certificates provide proof of the content and delivery of a communication to ensure that one party can’t later repudiate it. They can also guarantee that the exact message received was the message sent, and authenticate the identities of both the sender and recipient,” he says.

Smolnicki says potential users are banks wanting to provide security for customers doing B2B transactions, government departments, the health sector and B2B exchanges. The service has been available overseas for about six months and Computerworld understands ANZ has signed up in Australia.

Smolnicki says a point of differentiation for beTRUSTed is that it is a global service. “Large organisations will want a service that extends over sovereign boundaries.”

In New Zealand there are no legal regulations governing who can set up as a certification authority. Smolnicki says on a global level another of the big five accountancy/consulting companies is auditing beTRUSTed but he cannot reveal which until the audit is complete.

BeTRUSTed is also working towards certification with Identrus, an international organisation founded by US and European banks which is working on PKI standards for the banking industry. Computerworld understands that any PKI deployed by New Zealand banks will have to comply with Identrus standards as most of the parent banks are participants in the initiative.

Both Baycorp ID and beTRUSTed use PKI software by Dublin-based Baltimore to produce digital certificates.

Baycorp ID Services managing director David Young says he welcomes competition and believes it will be beneficial to have another provider educating potential users. Baycorp ID, which is three years old, also targets government - it provides the digital signatures for Treasury’s Crown Financial Information System - and the health industry but Young says its fastest growth is in the small and medium-sized business sector.

New Zealand organisations can also source digital certificates from overseas. For example, ASB Bank uses Verisign and BNZ uses RSA to provide digital certificates to individual customers using their online banking services.

However, Young says many smaller organisations have found setting up digital certificates is more difficult than they thought. He says often they need the support services which a local company can provide.

Earlier this year Inland Revenue ditched digital certificates for authentication of businesses trying to file tax returns online. It replaced the use of digital certificates, which were supplied Australian company Spyrus, with a password authentication system after it was found the system couldn’t work for Macintosh users.

Meanwhile, Computerworld understands another local company is planning to enter the PKI market before the end of the year.

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