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nCipher plays key role in Latvia’s nationwide digital signature infrastructure

September 2008 by Marc Jacob

nCipher plc has provided the encryption and time stamping technology for a nationwide digital signature infrastructure in Latvia that gives secure online access to government and commercial electronic services using smart cards. One of the largest e-government projects in Europe and linked closely with the European Commission’s eEurope 2005 and i2010 strategies, the digital signature infrastructure will help to eliminate paper forms and queuing at government offices for thousands of Latvians.

The project is the result of a public-private partnership between the Latvian Government and Latvia Post and telecommunications operator Lattelecom and is based on a Microsoft .NET Framework, Java and PKI - Public Key Infrastructure. nCipher’s Time Stamp Server (TSS) and Hardware Security Modules (HSMs) make it possible to digitally sign and time stamp critical documents and electronic forms using a high-strength, tamper-resistant security appliance; as well as manage the important lifecycle of the cryptographic keys. Not only does this overcome the risks associated with software-based digital signing processes, but also provides an auditable and trusted record of the date and time and ensures that documents can not be tampered with.

Some 14,000 Latvian public sector employees are the first to be issued with the smart cards, which they now use in their jobs for secure, authorised access to different government databases and information systems.

But with the digital signature infrastructure now in place, e-government services will be introduced. More than 25 new services are to be made available to the public online including customs and tax declarations, business registration services, birth and marriage certificate requests, employment search and library services. By integrating with all state registries, including a central Citizens Registry, public institutions and service providers can rapidly deploy electronic services without having to worry about security.

The Latvian Government is also encouraging private companies to use the digital signature infrastructure for e-business applications from online shopping and e-banking to providing secure access to corporate email and information systems for staff, partners and customers.

Handling sensitive personal information as well as valuable commercial material means that security must not be compromised. nCipher underpins data protection with its industry leading hardware security and time stamping products that integrate seamlessly with the digital signature infrastructure and support ongoing expansion.

In addition to the digital signing and time stamping technology, nCipher networked netHSMs are also used by Latvia’s Certificate Authorities (CAs) to handle the requests and signing of digital certificates while nCipher nForce cryptographic accelerators are deployed to speed up the computing-intensive processes.

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