In the years that follow, other organizations are sure to challenge
VeriSign for control of the public key certificate market. One of
VeriSign’s strongest competitors may be the
U.S. Postal Service, which actually started
investigating digital signatures as a kind of “digital
postmark” several years before VeriSign was even created. (A
variety of technical and managerial problems delayed the Postal
Service, though, forcing it to enter the market many months after
Representatives from the Postal
Service say that they will be a formidable competitor for VeriSign,
because the Postal Service enjoys a privileged position under U.S.
law thanks to the mail fraud statutes. Obtain a
digital certificate from a private company under false pretenses and
the worst that company can do is sue you for breach of contract. Lie
to the Postal Service, on the other hand, and you are committing a
form of mail fraud, a serious federal crime. As a result, the Postal
Service claims, certificates issued by the U.S. Postal Service will
implicitly have a higher level of assurance than the certificates
issued by any private corporation.
Although this argument sounds persuasive, it ignores the
wire fraud statutes. If a digital certificate is obtained under fraudulent purposes to commit fraud, the individual who obtains the certificate may still be committing a felony. Instead of having the crime investigated by postal inspectors, it will be investigated ...
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