MasterCard and GTE to Offer Digital Signatures for Secure Electronic Commerce

PURCHASE, NY and NEEDHAM, MA -- (July 23, 1996) MasterCard International and GTE today announced a broad initiative to offer safe electronic commerce via the Internet. The joint initiative will deliver the first electronic certification services under the new Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) standard by the fourth quarter, 1996.

Currently, information sent over the Internet is not considered secure and cannot be verified in any manner. Consequently, a person providing a MasterCard, or other credit card, number to a vendor cannot be sure the number will not be copied by other people. Similarly, the vendor has no assurance that the owner of the card number is the one providing it.

The system developed by MasterCard and GTE will provide a "digital certificate" that increases protection for the consumer and vendor against unauthorized usage of the card number. Digital certificates will be issued via the Internet to cardholding consumers, Internet merchants and institutions processing the transactions.

The SET standard was released in June 1996 and software to incorporate it into Internet browsers, servers and gateways should be available by early autumn from several vendors. The digital signatures are a vital component of the SET standard. SET, developed by MasterCard and Visa in cooperation with GTE, IBM, Microsoft and Netscape, offers sophisticated, end-to-end security for open, public networks such as the Internet. By announcing certification services for operability testing and pilots by the fourth quarter of this year, MasterCard and GTE propose to fill the last missing link for secure electronic commerce.

"We believe that when SET is fully implemented, electronic commerce over the Internet will explode, as there is already substantial pent-up demand waiting for our security solution," said Steve Mott, senior vice president, Electronic Commerce/New Ventures at MasterCard. "Obtaining digital signatures is expected to be no more difficult than signing up for an on-line service. We expect to extend our activities with GTE to chip cards and other products, so they are a key strategic ally for MasterCard and our members."

"MasterCard is an important player in electronic commerce because of its leadership role in creating and promoting standards," said Tom Carty, CyberTrust director. "MasterCard can offer services under strong brands that denote trust and reliability, permitting many participants to 'take the plunge' in electronic commerce right away. GTE's lengthy experience and record in security solutions will complement that proposition substantially."

Today's announcement builds upon a growing relationship that has included substantial support from GTE to create the SET specification, as well as certification authority services for MasterCard's chip card pilots in Canberra, Australia this spring, and planned for later this year in New York City. GTE also issues co-branded MasterCard products.

SET enables various brands of SET-compliant browser, server and gateway software products to work interchangeably. Cardholders, merchants and acquiring banks will be able to obtain digital certificates under the MasterCard brand, or via MasterCard issuers offering their own branded service through GTE or MasterCard.

Initial certification services will begin in the fourth quarter in conjunction with a variety of electronic commerce pilots that are being planned. Pilots have recently been announced in Denmark (with PBS, IBM, Europay and MasterCard) and Malaysia (with MBf, VeriFone and MasterCard). Several more announcements are expected soon.

GTE plans to offer both certification authority products and services under the CyberTrust brand name. CyberTrust will support all popular Web browsers, servers and other public key-enabled applications, such as secure e-mail and electronic data interchange. These products and services will be configurable to meet a wide range of commercial, consumer and government needs. GTE's service solutions are designed so that buyers can easily migrate to internally managed products and systems at a later date.

MasterCard International, with headquarters in Purchase, New York, is a global payments company with one of the world's most recognized brands. It is dedicated to helping more than 22,000 financial institutions provide their customers with a variety of payment options. MasterCard remains focused on helping shape the future of money by expanding the acceptance of its global brands (MasterCard, Maestro and Cirrus) to new categories, exploring new payment systems, and maintaining fast, reliable and secure systems and networks to facilitate global value exchange. MasterCard can be reached through "Pointers," its World Wide Web site.

With revenues of $20 billion in 1995, GTE is one of the largest publicly-held telecommunications companies in the world. GTE is also the largest U.S.-based local telephone company and a leading cellular-service provider -- with wireline and wireless operations that form a market area covering about one-third of the country's population. Outside the United States, where GTE has operated for more than 40 years, the company services over six million customers. GTE is also a worldwide leader in government and defense communications systems and equipment, aircraft passenger telecommunications, directories and telecommunications-based information services and systems.