The Land Registry's e-conveyancing project will go live in early summer following the introduction of a public key infrastructure (PKI) system that will guarantee the authenticity of property transaction documents.
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The Land Registry is the government agency that records who owns Britain's land and buildings. Its e-conveyancing system has been 10 years in development. It aims to make buying and selling houses easier and more certain.
Authorised parties will be able to exchange information quickly, securely and reliably with each other and the Land Registry. Documents will be encrypted and "signed" with a digital certificate, and people will require a secure token, username and password to produce and read the documents.
Property and mortgage registrations will be instant, funds transferred immediately, securely and reliably, and up-to-date and accurate information available on the progress of all linked conveyancing transactions.
John Wright, Land Registry's director of information systems, said it has retained IBM as the system integrator of the PKI system.
Final testing is underway and when it goes live, expected in early summer, it will be able to process up to 300,000 documents a day and support up to half a million security "certificates" from property professionals such as conveyance attorneys. Wright said initial volumes would be much lower. "By April 2009, we are planning for around 13,000 certificates and 30,000 signatures," he said.
Wright said Land Registry will use IBM's Tivoli access management software, Entrust's certificate management software and Activeidentity will supply the USB-based smart card tokens that authenticate the users' transactions. Former government defence research agency QinetiQ provided independent advice.
Wright said the Land Registry has "consulted widely and worked closely" with the Law Society, the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Government Gateway to frame an effective user agreement to govern each party's rights and responsibilities pertaining to the PKI system, especially key security.
The Land Registry will manage a central authority that issues the certificates that let the parties to a property deal sign electronically documents such as transfers or mortgages.
Legal firms and conveyancing organisations will identify, appoint specifically and train local administrators under a new role-based access framework. Administrator access to the system will depend on two-factor authentication using cryptographic tokens as well as username and passwords.