Signed and sealed on the internet
Sunday 21 June 1998
A smart card can store any information that can be put into computer code, from someone's credit-card details to the amount of units left on a phonecard. In finance, the application that is arousing most interest is the notion of a smart card as a way to establish someone's identity.
Companies using the internet to sell products, or even for insurance claims or portfolio management, need to check that customers are who they say they are. On paper they can do this with a signature, or by asking to see documents such as a passport or driving licence.
On line, user names and passwords provide a level of security, but they are not infallible. Moreover, they only work for existing customers who have proved their identities in the conventional manner.
Credit cards are the most popular way to pay for goods and services over the internet. Not everyone feels comfortable giving out their card details on line, however, and credit-card details are not an irrefutable proof of identity.
Several digital signature systems exist and are in use on the net, but they have disadvantages. They are cumbersome and they are linked to a computer rather than a user.
Putting the digital signature on a card solves the portability issue, and makes it more secure. It also does away with the need to remember dozens of different user identities and passwords for web sites. The first large-scale trial of a digital signature card started last week, when Barclays Bank and the Government announced a scheme allowing people who become self-employed to use a smart card to prove their identities over the net.
The card, called Barclays Endorse, is an identity or digital signature card. Users apply for a card by visiting a Barclays branch with conventional forms of identification.
After that, the cardholder authorises a document or transaction by putting the card into the computer, and unlocking it with a PIN that he or she chooses. The bank does not know the PIN and it is not sent over the net.
During the trial, the card details and signature are verified by a server at Barclays, which holds details of lost and stolen cards. The system is funded by a small charge for the authorisation service.
q Links: www.barclaysendorse.co.uk
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
I had dinner with the pensions minister Steve Webb this week. There was a wide-ranging discussion about the new pensions freedoms starting in April, and changes to the state pension. Crucially, I also got to ask Mr Webb whether he had any plans to have another look at the injustice that is frozen pensions.
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
While the health of the economy is not insignificant, Mark Dampier finds it incredibly unpredictable in terms of its impact on the stock market
21 January 2015 12:32 PM
A new free app is aimed at the three-fifths of Brits who have never switched supplier
20 January 2015 09:34 AM
Regulator’s investigation into the market found that around £160bn was held in easy access savings accounts that pay interest lower or equal to BoE base rate
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
Simon Read: Information is power. And it's in the wrong hands when people are cold-called by companies that know they're in debt
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
In debt? You're likely to be targeted by unscrupulous companies that hope to profit from your misfortune. They may try to pretend to be your friend by offering what they call "help" – but almost certainly that help will come with a cost and leave you worse off than you were before they got in touch.
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
In less than three months' time radical changes to pensions will take effect, providing investors with more freedom. Yet for those who prefer to make their own investment decisions, the choice of funds available is overwhelming. And an income drawdown account is also not particularly easy to manage.
15 January 2015 12:23 PM
The minimum amount for which you can be forced into bankruptcy is being raised from £750 to £5,000
14 January 2015 08:55 AM
A shock report reveals that fuel poverty is affecting desperate families – and their children
14 January 2015 08:59 AM
Most people are too confused to know how to use their pensions for a secure income
10 January 2015 12:00 AM
Simon Read: Inflation is riding the slow train. So why have we been given a one-way ticket to travel on the fares express?
10 January 2015 12:00 AM
I struck a chord with many of you when I wrote a piece earlier this week about rising train fares. It seems there is an army of travellers who feel they've been ripped off by increased transport costs.
26 December 2014 02:31 PM
Poor service from banks and energy companies has sadly been a theme this year
Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal
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Bargain Hunter: From The Outsider to 1984, catch a cut-price classic, read it in the rye
Money Insider: Smart alternatives to the pensioner bond
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
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