CBI earmark barriers to e-commerce

Fraud and other ‘cyber-crime’ has become a significant barrier to the e-business ambitions of UK companies, the CBI has warned.

A study of almost 150 firms revealed that a large number still do not regard the internet as a safe place to do business.

They were responding to a survey carried out by the CBI, the Fraud Advisory Panel and Nottingham Trent University’s Centre for Fraud Prevention Research.

The report accompanying the survey claimed one of the most worrying implications was the impact on e-business growth among small and medium-sized companies.

These often feel inhibited by a fear of cyber-crime, and the belief that they lack the resources to protect themselves properly. As a result, the ability of smaller firms to compete on a level playing field with their larger counterparts – in theory one of the benefits of internet-based business – is seriously undermined.

Only slightly more than half the companies questioned had confidence in the security of online business-to-business transactions. However, this was still significantly better than the level of trust expressed by firms doing business with consumers on the internet. Less than a third regarded these deals as safe.

The survey results suggest fears are far from groundless. Two-thirds of respondents had suffered a serious incident relating to the security of their IT systems during the past year.

Viruses were named as the most feared threat, followed by hacking and illegal accessing of protected databases.

Examples of actual security breaches given to the survey’s compilers show how serious the consequences can be.

One embittered former chief network administrator planted a ‘time bomb’ virus in the system of his ex-employer, deleting all design and production data and causing severe financial losses.

Another firm had its website defaced by a dissatisfied customer, resulting in lost time and money and a considerable dent to its corporate reputation.

CBI director-general Digby Jones called on the government to make sure legislation keeps pace with the constantly changing threat from cyber-criminals, and to make sure the law is rigorously enforced.

The report also recommends a UK centre for cyber-crime complaints be established along the lines of a similar body in the US. This could quickly channel details of incidents to the relevant authorities.

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