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As previously noted here: SciAm, December, 1995:
"Confidential Communication on the Internet." By Thomas
Beth, director of the European Institute for System
Security and professor of computer science at the
university of Karlsruhe.
Chain of certification in the author's scheme, SELANE,
extends from local authorities who vouch for an
individual's identity and probity up through regional,
national and supranational authorities, each vouching
for those below it. Digital signatures prevent
tampering; anyone who recognizes one signature in the
chain can be assured that a signed document is valid.
SELANE is compatible with almost every commercial and
academic network. It also provides a "smart" card that
can carry out the necessary calculations securely for
each user. And it addresses the conflicts of government
and privacy interests when wire-tapping is needed.