The UK's Barclays Bank is one of eight major financial institutions that are working on a system to certify the identity of online customers.
The banks said that a major obstacle to the uptake of electronic commerce and banking is the inability to confirm the identity of people carrying out transactions.
The group have agreed to create a consortium to certify corporate and employee identities over the Net, so that buyers and sellers can be sure they are dealing with genuine partners.
The other banks involved are the US big three - Chase Manhattan, Bank of America and Citibank - plus ABN Amro of Holland, Deutsche Bank and Hypo Vereinsbank of Germany, and Bankers' Trust, also from the US.
Authorised users would receive a smartcard that would be inserted in a special slot in the computer before carrying out any transaction. Users would have digital certificates as well as passwords.
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