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"SEMPER" security on the Internet: Advanced European e-business prototype goes online

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Zurich, Switzerland, 31 March 1998—First e-business transactions on the Internet using a security prototype system developed by the European research project SEMPER (Secure Electronic Marketplace for Europe) has gone live, in a trial conducted by three companies in France and The Netherlands. The specifications of the software, which provides a unique set of integrated security services, are publicly available on the SEMPER server at www.semper.org.

After an extensive testing phase and successful demonstrations at several events, among them a conference at the European Parliament in June and a G10 ministerial conference in July of 1997, SEMPER security is now being deployed for the e-business of the following three small and medium-sized companies that have agreed to participate in an Internet-based field trial:

  • OPL / Maris, located in Rijswijk, The Netherlands, specializes in publications on the oil and gas industry and plans to sell related books, CD-ROMS, and maps, as well as to provide access to data bases (www.oilpubs.com/SEMPER).
  • Acri, a company in Sophia-Antipolis (Antibes) in southern France will offer access to a database of satellite and aerial photos (eurosud2.eurecom.fr/acrimall).
  • Actimedia, also located in Sophia-Antipolis, will sell CD-ROMs in an Internet shopping mall operated by the Centre International de Communications Avancees (C.I.C.A) (www.cyberlandpro.com).

The results of the trial, which began in late March, will have an impact on the final work on the SEMPER project, the objective of which is to provide the first complete security architecture for doing e-business over the Internet. It will offer a framework that integrates all services required for secure electronic commerce. Already implemented today are

  • user authentication, which ensures secure identification of the communicating parties or their pseudonyms—if anonymity is required—to conduct a certain business;
  • digitally signed offers and orders, i.e. the communicating parties receive signed documents as evidence of their business transactions;
  • confidentiality, i.e. the communicating parties can be sure that details of their business are not revealed unintentionally to third parties;
  • secure electronic payments, one type by credit card and two by cash-like transactions. Credit card payment will be made secure by SET Secure Electronic Transaction,* the standard supported by Visa and Mastercard. SEMPER makes use of the SET implementation in IBM's CommercePOINTTM, an e-business software product family, which in turn manages—in its eTill product—various payment systems based on a component developed within SEMPER. The supported cash-like payment systems are a smartcard-based electronic purse developed by KPN (the Dutch PTT), and ecashTM, an online payment system from DigiCash in The Netherlands.

The final steps in the SEMPER project, which is planned to run until December 1998, will lead to a significantly extended version of the specifications available today. Security will be provided for additional services, such as fair exchange, making sure that a contract handled online, for example, is provably signed by both parties. Subsequent developments will include improved techniques for privacy protection, such as support for anonymity and for certificates for credit-rating or for a club membership.

"The unique set of integrated security services provided by SEMPER is an important step towards e-business becoming reliably operational and widely accepted," says Spiros Konidaris, Director of Directorate General XIII-B at the European Commission. "It will have a strong influence on how e-business will be done not only in Europe, but most likely also worldwide, as it demonstrates leadership in an emerging marketplace which will become crucial for all kinds of businesses."

New SEMPER partners

Two new partners joined the SEMPER team in 1997. One of them is Commerzbank, one of the largest banks in Germany, which has been involved in several e-business activities in the past. In particular, it was the first German bank to process credit card payments on the Internet using the SET standard. Within SEMPER, Commerzbank will provide banking support for SET for the business trials to be conducted in 1998. The second new partner is SINTEF Telecom and Informatics, Trondheim, Norway. Within SEMPER, SINTEF is designing and implementing an advanced version of the commerce layer, which provides business-specific services by means of object-oriented applications programming interfaces (APIs) that support the secure execution of commercial transactions.

SEMPER Project and Consortium

The SEMPER project is partly funded by the European Commission as well as the Swiss government, as part of the European programme on "Advanced Communication Technologies and Services" (ACTS) established by the European Commission Directorate General XIII. ACTS is the follow-on of the "Research on Advanced Communications in Europe" (RACE) programme. The SEMPER project participates in the G7 pilot Project "A Global Marketplace for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)".

The SEMPER project is led by IBM. The project members are Commerzbank (D), Cryptomathic (DK), CWI (NL), DigiCash (NL), EUROCOM EXPERTISE (GR), Europay International (B), FOGRA Forschungsgesellschaft Druck (D), France-Telecom/CNET (F), GMD German National Research Center for Information Technology (D), IBM France (F, project coordination) and IBM Research - Zurich (CH, technical lead), INTRACOM (GR), KPN Research (NL), Maris (NL), Otto-Versand (D), r3 security engineering (CH), SINTEF (N), and the German universities of Dortmund, Freiburg and Saarbrücken (D). Sponsoring partners are Acri (F), Actimedia (F), Banksys (B), Banque Générale de Luxembourg (L), Centre International de Communications Avances, (F), Enyca Engineering (E), OPL (NL), Telekurs (CH), and Viajes Eroski (E).

More information in the Internet: http://www.semper.org.

Above mentioned names may be eventually registered and/or legally protected trademarks in favor of their proprietors.

*SET Secure Electronic Transaction, Secure Electronic Transaction, SET and the SET Secure Electronic Transaction LLC design mark are trademarks and service marks owned by SET Secure Electronic Transaction LLC.

Press contact

Nicole Strachowski
Media Relations
IBM Research - Zurich
Tel +41 44 724 84 45

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