Bank's smartcard trial for business only

Lloyds TSB says consumers will have to wait for enhanced security

Lloyds TSB's smartcard banking trial, which will enable much greater security for Internet transactions than is possible for conventional Internet banking, will initially be for businesses only, the bank said today. The bank hopes to pursuade more businesses to start trading online.

Business customers who agree to participate in the five-month trial will be issued smartcards and special kits to ensure that nobody else will have access to their account information.

However, Lloyds TSB today said that consumers will have to wait to get this level of security from them.

"It's specifically designed for business users," said a company spokeswoman. "We are looking into how a product could be designed for consumer customers, but have no immediate plans."

Research carried out by consumer magazine Which! indicates that fears over Internet fraud are among the main factors hampering the success of online services such as Internet banking.

The Lloyds TSB smartcard system relies on a central certificate authority which hold master encryption keys that identify individual users and authenticate their channels of communication.

The Lloyds TSB triallists will use the smartcards in conjunction with a password to identify themselves to the TSB central authority, based on technology supplied by Entrust.

Business consultancy firm Accenture -- formerly Anderson Consulting -- has been commissioned to oversee the implementation of the scheme, while smartcard manufacturer Schlumberger will supply the technology.

"The key online banking pilot will be run with a small number of business customers, who have agreed to work with us to test and optimise the functionality of this new technology," said business banking director of distribution, Alan Woods. "Once we are content with the system, all our business customers will be able to benefit from the increased functionality and security that key provides."

The online system will be expanded late this summer if the trial proves successful.

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