VeriSign unveils online identity-verification services

Trust services vendor VeriSign Inc. last week unveiled a new online identity verification service that allows Web customers to positively establish their identities with online merchants.

The new Consumer Authentication Service (CAS) provides online businesses with instant, round-the-clock information taken from more than 50 public and private databases to ensure a customer’s identity, said Anil Chakravarthy, director of product management for VeriSign’s enterprise group.

The information comes from state motor vehicle department, government, credit bureau and telephone number databases, Chakravarthy said. Optimized scoring models are used to help businesses quickly and easily determine whether potential buyers are who they claim to be.

The services, which are charged to the businesses on a per-transaction basis by Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign, vary with the importance of the identity checks.

The services aren’t for typical retail online sales but would be used by online auction houses such as eBay or similar businesses to establish the identities of first-time customers seeking credit accounts, Chakravarthy said.

“It makes very good sense for the online auction house to check on you” to reduce fraud, identity theft and other problems, he said.

The new service uses a predefined set of XML standards to connect to an enterprise’s customer-facing Web application. The authentication data entered by the consumer is then automatically routed using XML and encryption through VeriSign’s services and is checked against varied databases to cross-verify and risk-rank the consumer identity in real time. Verification is then automatically sent back to the enterprise application and to the consumer, using underlying XML data.

The communication is secured with Secure Sockets Layer encryption that is already built into standard Web servers and browsers.

“We take extraordinary measures not only to be highly secure…but also we take extraordinary care to ensure the privacy of this information,” Chakravarthy said.

VeriSign had previously offered such services only to online auction vendors but is now making the services available to a broader audience.

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