Entrust unveils security strategy for wireless appliances

The wireless application protocol (WAP) market is getting more and more attention, and Entrust Technologies is set to ride its wave.

The company recently unveiled its new wireless strategy, which includes new security services and products for e-commerce. According to Entrust, this will enable it to offer secure services to its customers over wireless networks.

New products added to the company’s line include Entrust/public-key infrastructure (PKI) software and Toolkit products. The software will now have WAP and other wireless digital certificates to provide encryption and authentication security to applications and devices.

When consumers visit an e-commerce site over their wireless devices, certificates are used to ascertain the consumer has actually contacted the intended merchant, according to Michel Ranger, the director of strategic planning at Entrust Technologies.

But before the certificates are issued, “we, on behalf of the consumer, will validate that that really is that business on-line, because you don’t have the physical cues that you would when you go to a store,” explained Ranger. “When you’re on-line you really don’t know whether it’s one bank or another and that service, of authenticating people before they get this digital passport, that’s what we’ll be offering, aimed at people who run Web sites that want to make them wireless Web sites.”

Alistair Rennie is the senior vice-president of marketing at Toronto-based 724 Solutions, one of the companies that is currently working with Entrust to introduce the services. 724 provides Internet infrastructures to companies that “basically serve their customers across a wide range of access devices,” Rennie said. Customers can then do things such as check their bank account balance or pay bills on their mobile phone or on other wireless Internet devices.

“(Our) involvement with Entrust is something that is of great importance to us, and the initiative they’re taking around sort of standardized mobile PKIs is important,” Rennie explained. “When you’re providing software infrastructure to financial institutions and allowing people to conduct those kinds of transactions, the overall security of the system is a critical element.”

Entrust is aiming the new products and services at “customers that have valuable transactions that they want to do with a mobile customer,” said Ranger. “So banking, things like auctions, things like buying products instead of buying them on-line, you’re buying them on the air. And it’s e-commerce sites, banking and brokerage that are really top targets.”

With the certification authority services, Entrust.net will be able to issue WAP digital certificates to validate e-commerce transaction sites to mobile users. As well, existing services from Entrust partners, such as newly launched Canadian site e-Scotia.com, will be able to issue the certificates to mobile e-commerce sites. According to Ranger, development of the services is currently underway, and the company plans to have the first service available this month. The Entrust.net WAP Server certificates are expected to be in the US$299 price range, according to the vendor.

The new products – Entrust/PKI software and the Toolkit products – will be available in Q1 of the year 2000. The ability to issue wireless certificates will be added to the software, and new versions of the Toolkit products will also be available.

Security needs complements to be valuable, said Ranger. With that in mind, Entrust has extended its Partner Program, which will now include businesses such as wireless carriers, e-commerce server and gateway vendors and mobile device manufacturers, as well as people who set up e-commerce Web sites, according to the company. This will allow it to add wireless portals to e-commerce sites.

Fundamentally, said Rennie, although 724 has some decisions to make in the near future, it is pleased with Entrust’s announcement.

“We have not yet built a product that has mobile PKI certificates in it,” he explained. “We have not said who specifically we will end up using, and in all likelihood, the market will require that an application vendor like ourselves is open to multiple standards so we could end up using multiple vendors’ implementations.”

But what pleases the company the most, he said, “is that Entrust and others are stepping up to the necessary leadership to make sure that implementations from multiple vendors are standard, are consistent, and that any differences in implementation won’t be visible to an end-consumer.”

724 is also pleased, he added, that proprietary implementation is something it does not have to worry about.

According to one analyst, things look pretty pleasing for Entrust as well.

“Clearly if you’re Entrust you’re looking at this and you’re saying the more places I can provide services, the better job I can do in terms of supporting my current users, and the better job I can do in terms of growing my user community by being in more spaces and being more visible and being able to provide assistance,” said Eric Hemmendinger, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group.

While he said he doesn’t see any downsides to this announcement for Entrust or its customers, the good news is that it has decided to get in this marketplace early.

“The up-side is they’re slightly better positioned than somebody who has not taken a stance here,” Hemmendinger said, adding that it is still very early to be sure of exactly what will happen.

For more information about the new services and products, see Entrust at www.entrust.com. 724 Solutions is at www.724solutions.com.