UK businesses should soon be able to conduct trade electronically with their counterparts in Macedonia and with other states that have until now been deemed too great an e-commerce risk, thanks to an initiative between security techology firm VeriSign and the US Agency for International Development.
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Banks in Macedonia, part of the former Yugoslavia, are poised to issue their customers with two-factor authentication devices to turn around the country's reputation as a risky trading partner for e-commerce.
Until now, the country has in effect been blacklisted by major e-commerce sites such as eBay and PayPal, stifling the ability of Macedonian firms to trade online.
The US Agency for International Development has partnered with VeriSign to provide Macedonia's banks with the smart tokens that will allow the country's citizens and businesses to trade securely online.
"The blacklisting has had crippling effects on Macedonia, which is a fairly new country. There are a number of industries that Macedonia is looking to develop, including wine and cheese exports and textiles," said Ryan Kalember, VeriSign's regional technical manager for EMEA. "Without access to e-commerce sites, they do not have any way to conduct e-commerce."
Commercialna Banka in the country's capital, Skopje, is the first Macedonian bank to take up the technology, and will roll out tokens to 10,000 internet banking customers by the end of the year.
The tokens, part of VeriSign's Identity Protection (VIP) service, will allow account holders to conduct their banking online securely and provide them with secure access to a network of VIP-compatible e-commerce sites, including eBay, PayPal and Yahoo.
Although online trading with Macedonia is regarded as risky, studies have shown that the problem is more one of perception, rather than any significant problem with online fraud.
VeriSign is in discussions with a second bank in Macedonia to roll out the technology. It is also looking at a similar scheme for Romania, which has more serious problems with e-crime.
A range of suppliers are planning to produce VIP-compatible tokens and software, including Yahoo, Motorola and Symantec.
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