First public digital certification body sets up shop

The first public Internet digital certification authority to be launched in New Zealand is also the first such authority in the world with ISO9001 accreditation. David Young, managing director of the new company, 128i Ltd, says there has been a high degree of interest from organisations. So far, customers include a national law firm and the national health service's intranet.

The first public Internet digital certification authority to be launched in New Zealand is also the first such authority in the world with ISO9001 accreditation.

A certification authority is a trusted third party that issues digital certificates which permit the electronic identification and authentication of users based on their personal details and the digital signature of the certification authority. There are already a number in the US.

The digital signature is a purely electronic means of signing and verifying electronic documents.

“Till now, you could not be certain in New Zealand who you were communicating with or that you were communicating in a secure environment,” says David Young, managing director of the new company, 128i Ltd, speaking at its Wellington launch last week.

He says there’s been a high degree of interest from organisations. So far, customers include a national law firm and the national health service’s intranet.

Typically, certification authorities overseas offer three classes of certification. 128i has a different approach. It offers one class with 128-bit encryption software add-ons.

For example, the 128-bit add-on email enables, say, Microsoft Mail to be encrypted.

The US is still very restrictive on exporting 128-bit encryption but 128i obtained the technology through two of its business partners, in Ireland and Sweden.

Another strategic relationship has been formed, with Baltimore Technologies, one of the main developers of standards-based digital certificate infrastructure. Baltimore recently provided the means that allowed US President Bill Clinton and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern to be the first heads of state to digitally sign an international communique.

“It’s been very complex and expensive to set up,” says Young. “We’ve got a very large X500 directory, NSA recommended guidelines and security standards.

“Prices for digital certificates are set internationally but we don’t get those economies of scale.”

128i will charge $150 for the desktop bundle of certificate and add-on email, with an annual renewal fee of $100. The server fee is $450 with an annual renewal of $400.

128i’s directors are all chartered accountants with experience in the IT industry. An associate company, Hunter Group, specialises in IT and financial management consultancy.

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