Criminals given golden opportunities by online businesses

Criminals are having fine old time online. Indeed, yesterday The Pentagon had to shut down its entire email system because it had been broken into by hackers. This news comes less than a week after a study showed that almost half of online businesses are victims of cybercrime.

The editor of PC World magazine said in his editorial this month that when online we appear to accept lower standards of security than for offline businesses. If a bank lost our pin numbers, he wrote, we would be furious. But if a web site gets hacked and our passwords get stolen, we just accept it and start using a new password.

Crime is easy online. Few web sites are secure. Everyone argues it is someone else’s responsibility. If your business is broken into online your service provider can argue it is your web designer’s fault. Your web designer can argue it is the broadband provider who is to blame. And your broadband provider can argue it is your own PC where the problem lies. Offline, if your premises were broken into its clear – it would be your own security measures that were at fault.

However, in the physical world we feel we can do something about crime prevention. Online we seem to believe that we can do nothing about it. For instance, a significant proportion of people have no anti-virus protection because they think they are going to get attacked anyway, so why waste money on the software? Others store customer credit card details in a text file on their server, assuming that no-one could get to the data, even if they wanted to.

But your online business stands a real chance of being broken into. Plus, there are several things you can do to enhance your company’s security. Cases like The Pentagon’s recent break in make us think that if they can’t prevent cybercrime, what hope do the rest of us have. In the weeks to come, though, we will discover they had made a fundamental and basic error in their systems. Every online break in comes down to simple security measures that were not taken. In most instances, web sites are behaving rather like shop owners who leave the front door open at night.

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