Recombo, a digital signature software provider, announced on Wednesday a partnership with Equifax Canada that will pair the credit bureau’s wealth of information with Recombo’s Waypoint program to make Web-signing documents safer.

Digital signature programs, like Recombo’s Waypoint, allow people to “sign” documents online, and is used by leasing firms, human resources staff, temporary staffing agencies, vacation property rental places, and for business-to-business contracting. It works in a similar manner to using a bank card to withdraw money from an ATM. “It uses a public key infrastructure,” said Recombo president and CEO Mike Gardner. “The bank card is the public key and the PIN is the private key. Digital signatures work like banking online.”

Only the person sending the document needs to be operating Waypoint. An e-mail is sent to the recipient, who clicks the “sign” button, which then prompts them to input their user name and PIN, which then “signs” the document.

Setting up one’s user name and password is where Equifax Canada — and some privacy issues — comes in. Previous versions of Waypoint used a few questions about “wallet information,” said Gardner, including basic things like name, address, telephone number, or driver’s licence number, to ascertain that you were who you said you were. Now, Waypoint software will come equipped with Equifax checks in place. Once the user has passed the “wallet information” test, Equifax’s automated process, eIDverifier, asks three or four in-depth multiple-choice questions.

“Then Equifax gives them a pass or fail,” said Gardner. “Based on that that, a link has been established between the public key and the private key, and the whole thing is also encrypted.”

Gardner said that he went with Equifax Canada because they’re the gold standard –“they have a very reliable reputation and their quality of information is fantastic,” said Gardner.

But it’s this wealth of information that can perturb people, said Mary Kirwan, CEO of security firm Headfry. She said that recent snafus with data leakage out of both Equifax and Transunion have led to a general mistrust of credit bureaus, and that Equifax’s pairing up with Recombo could be a result of Equifax trying to get a little good PR. “Equifax wants to be perceived as more trustworthy, but whether this improves (Recombo’s) security posture is by no means certain,” she said.

“It’s not like we’re reinventing the wheel — we’re taking what works for security and applying to an area of business to help speed up commerce,” said Gardner.

Kirwan said, however, that announcements of the next big step in security have been going on for years, and that this security might not pan out, either. “This is just one extra, one more facet — it just adds confidence for the user,” she said.

Gardner feels that fraud isn’t actually what scares people. “ It’s the spectre of it,” he said, although Canadians are not protected if they are actually hit with fraud, as Canada has no overarching security breakdown reporting laws. Said Kirwan: “If they screw up, they’re not obligated to tell the victim.”

Regardless of the spectre of fraud looming over digital signature software, clients seem to be eager to benefit from Equifax’s involvement with future versions of Waypoint. Colin McWhinnie, a reseller with Vancouver’s Sales Xperts, said, “With the companies we’ve spoken with, especially in the financial sector, this is the missing piece of the puzzle. They can really trust who is on the other end of the digital signature. Educating users about the involvement of a credit bureau up front and the benefits should reduce anxiety about it, according to McWhinnie.

Tio Networks chairman and CEO Hamed Shahbazi said he is also enthused about having Equifax delving into people’s information in service of identification. “Anything that isn’t too personally intrusive and improves the business model — that’s a good thing,” said Shahbazi.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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