Government agencies in Russia, a vast country with a vast bureaucracy, have always depended on the laborious exchange of paperwork.

"If someone got instructions from a remote office of the Russian civil service to do something, and it was signed, they would know it was authentic," said Gavan Egan, who heads the London office of Herndon-based Cybertrust Inc.

So when Russia's Federal Treasury moved toward an electronic document system, Egan said, officials asked, "What would help us replicate the trust we have in pushing paperwork back and forth?"

Cybertrust won a contract to create a "public key infrastructure" that confirms digital signatures on documents and shows that they haven't been tampered with. The work is part of a project, financed by the World Bank, to modernize the Russian treasury's information system. The new system will handle documents and fund transfers within the Federal Treasury and with other state-owned entities such as Customs and the Bank of Russia.

Egan, who heads Cybertrust's Northern European operations, said he could not reveal the cost of the contract. That's standard for Cybertrust, a closely held company that says it has more than 4,000 customers in government and business for products and services that promise to find and fill electronic security gaps.