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eBay, PayPal, Yahoo Jump On VeriSign Authentication Network Bandwagon

VeriSign unveils a new security system to protect online buyers from identity theft.

VeriSign on Monday unveiled a new security system to protect online buyers from identity theft, and said it had signed up PayPal, eBay, and Yahoo as the first sites to support the authentication service.

Called VeriSign Identity Protection (VIP), the system will let consumers use a single security device to authenticate themselves to any VIP-enabled Web site. Using a shared authentication network operated by VeriSign, VIP allows e-tailing sites and enterprises to provide customers or users with one authentication credential -- perhaps a USB-based token that plugs into the computer -- for verifying identity.

VeriSign said it hoped to attract financial organizations such as banks and brokerage houses, Internet providers, and e-commerce sites to the network, where costs would be shared and the cost of stronger authentication brought down to a reasonable price.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is counting on worries about fraud to boost sales of its security services and software. The time is right: several end user surveys conducted in 2005 concluded that American consumers are changing their online habits, often by buying less or dropping online banking, because of high anxiety over identity theft.

VeriSign has been pushing tokens as a way to provide two-factor authentication, as has rival RSA Security.

Sandisk, another VIP partner, will add one-time password capability to its USB-based flash drives, said VeriSign, while another early supporter, Motorola, will add the technology to future consumer mobile devices.

"With the increase in both the frequency and sophistication of malicious online activities such as phishing and identity theft, a fresh approach is needed to protect consumers as they conduct business online," said Judy Lin, executive vice president of VeriSign's security services, in a statement.

Both eBay's PayPal and VeriSign will sell or give away authentication tokens for VIP. VeriSign plans to sell token devices directly to consumers through a Web portal to go live this summer. Yahoo, meanwhile, will let VIP-compliant devices authenticate users of its portals for such services as e-mail and storage.

Parts of the VIP network are available now, while others -- such as a fraud intelligence network -- will debut in four to six months.

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