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Introduction to Secure Electronic Transaction (SET)

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Bone up on the standard for secure electronic transaction (SET), an electronic commerce protocol.
Bill Stallings is the author of the forthcoming Cryptography and Network Security, Third Edition (Prentice Hall, 2002, due in August).
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Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) is an open encryption and security specification designed to protect credit card transactions on the Internet. The current version, SETv1, emerged from a call for security standards by MasterCard and Visa in February 1996. A wide range of companies were involved in developing the initial specification, including IBM, Microsoft, Netscape, RSA, Terisa, and Verisign. Since 1996 there have been numerous tests of the concept; by 1998, the first wave of SET-compliant products was available.

SET is not itself a payment system. Rather, it's a set of security protocols and formats enabling users to employ the existing credit card payment infrastructure on an open network, such as the Internet, in a secure fashion. In essence, SET consists of three services:

  • Providing a secure communications channel among all parties involved in a transaction.

  • Providing trust by the use of X.509v3 digital certificates.

  • Ensuring privacy because the information is only available to parties in a transaction when and where necessary.

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