Secure Electronic Transactions -
Introduction and Technical Reference
Artech House, 1998, £55
341pp (with CDROM), ISBN: ISBN 0-89006-992-1
LSE Computer Security Research Centre
This is not a big book. Although it has 341 pages if the Appendix and the Index are excluded this brings it down to 270 pages. It would be appropriate to ignore these since the Appendix is nothing more than a printout of the SET Protocol in a particular notation.
Go back to the beginning and you will find that what this book really is is an expanded version of a very good article in Internet World on Electronic Commerce and the Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) protocol. The first chapter explains what electronic commerce is and how SET fits into the picture. It covers S-HTTP and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) in a very clear fashion and then shows how SET might become a major force in electronic commerce in the near future. The second chapter explains cryptographic basics in its first half and then goes into specifics. Thereafter the text explains the means of the reserved words and the complex technical details behind SET from purchase initiation through certificate management to Internet data transport protocols. It includes the actual programming examples and computer code that can be used to construct and roll out a basic SET system.
The CDROM contains a Macromedia presentation from GTE on the SET protocol and ready-made protocol routines that programmers can use as a guide for SET implementation.
There are very few books on this new topic. If an in-depth understanding of SET is immediately important to your work or practice then you need to read the first thirty six pages of this book. If you are given the task of actually developing SET systems then the remaining material text and the CDROM would be useful. At $69 for what it is the book is not excessively priced given the highly specialist nature of its subject matter.
But SET may not be the eventual winner in electronic commerce. Some would say that it is an overcomplicated solution to a problem which is adequately addressed for consumer purposes by S-HTTP and SSL technology. If electronic commerce takes off on non-SET systems then there will be no reason for companies to incur the additional overheads imposed by SET. The jury is still out on SET
This is a Book Review published on 30 June 1998.
Citation: Kelman A, 'Larry Loeb's, Secure Electronic Transactions - Introduction and Technical Reference', Book Review, 1998 (2) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/bookrev/98_2kloe/>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1998_2/kelman4/>.