Digital certificates will play a key role in establishing secure e-commerce trading, giving trading partners guarantees about the integrity of a company and re-assurance about security of transactions.
Anthony Belpaire, managing director of GlobalSign believes security is paramount if e-commerce is to succeed. "The issue of trust is key for the growth of e-commerce across all business sectors," he said.
So far, GlobalSign has issued 160,000 certificates across Europe. The bulk of these have been for business to business e-commerce, with only ten percent for business to consumer e-commerce. Belpaire believes digital signatures will be crucial to e-commerce finding consumer acceptability. "Already in Europe, some countries have given digital signatures the same value as physical ones," he said.
The applications are huge, he believes. Banking, tax returns, as well as more conventional on-line transactions will be possible with personal digital signatures and Belpaire anticipates the day we have "a portfolio of digital signatures in our electronic wallets."
Belpaire believes on-line merchants will soon demand signatures as proof of purchase. Available from GlobalSign's Web site an individual public signature can be bought for around £10. Businesses interested in purchasing digital certificates need to contact their local BCC.
The director general of the BCC Chris Humphries hopes the new deal will encourage the uptake of e-commerce in the UK. "The potential e-commerce holds for firms in the UK is vast," he said. A government White paper on the issue of encryption is due out in the spring.
Recent research from Ovum suggests e-commerce may not be the "golden opportunity" some see it as. Senior analyst Heather Stark warned against idealism. "To some extent the Internet is driven by vision, but those who imagine the Internet allowing any company to trade with any other company need to get real," she said.
Closed trading will be as much a part of cyber trading as of conventional trading. "There will be groups of businesses operating around a particular portal and others will not just be able to walk up and become a part of it," Stark said.