Internet giants Yahoo and eBay are among the early converts to a new VeriSign online identity-protection programme launched today.

The VeriSign Identity Protection (VIP) scheme includes a network that will allow customers to use one authentication credential across VIP-enabled sites, including eBay and its online payment service PayPal. The VIP service includes two-factor authentication using an open standard from the Initiative for Open Authentication, or 'Oath'.

Rob Chesnut, senior vice-president of trust and safety at eBay and PayPal, said in a statement that eBay is pleased to work with VeriSign on VIP "because online security is central to everything we do".

VIP will make it simpler for online companies such as financial institutions or e-commerce sites to implement stronger authentication by using a shared infrastructure, VeriSign said in a press release.

VeriSign technology partner SanDisk will support VIP by manufacturing and distributing Oath-compliant USB mass-storage and flash devices, and Motorola plans to enable the technology on consumer mobile devices, VeriSign said.

The VIP service also includes fraud detection, using anomaly detection technology. In mid-2006, VeriSign will add what it calls a fraud intelligence network, which will allow VIP-enabled websites to share fraud data and signatures, and plans to add additional services including the VeriSign VIP portal, which will allow consumers to obtain support directly from the company for VIP-enabled authentication devices.

VeriSign has introduced the products in light of concerns about online fraud, it said. Increases in the frequency and sophistication of malicious activities such as phishing and identity theft mean that a fresh approach is needed to protect people who transact business online, said Judy Lin, executive vice-president and general manager of VeriSign Security Services, in a statement.