No love lost for e-commerce security

A week after the I Love You virus wreaked its billions of dollars of damage on the world's computer networks, the Federal Government handed down Budget 2000. It revealed a Government newly serious about computer crime. The nation's information infrastructure is to be saved by giving $2 million to allow ASIO, the Department of Defence, the Attorney General's department and the Federal Police to work together to protect key infrastructure.

The piddling amount of money allotted to the task demonstrates the sadly persistent attitude of many public and private organisations to-ward computer security: that it's not a major problem and, in any case, if you spend $2 million protecting the national infrastructure the problem will go away.

As I Love You demonstrated, a few lines of computer code can bring banks, governments, law firms, manufacturers, publishers and small business to their knees. Yet even when the problem is identified, and demonstrated, people apparently remain reluctant to accept the magnitude of the problem.

When I Love You struck, most of corporate Japan was away from work celebrating the national holiday known as Golden Week. When workers returned to their desks the following week, I Love You was well documented and warnings rife. Japanese employees, however, ignored the warnings, opened their e-mails and another round of viral infection broke out.

It is a little like a biological virus. When you see someone else sniffling and complaining about an unspecified virus you consider them a malingerer; when you yourself catch it, you readily admit this one is definitely second cousin to the bubonic plague.

The attack shouldn't have come as a complete surprise. A warning shot about computer security had been heard earlier in the year with the round of denial of service attacks made on major online companies in February. Hackers launched denial of service attacks on the big names, rendering Yahoo inaccessible for three hours; Buy.com and eBay also went down. Only a trickle of people made it to CNN, and it was virtually impossible to trade on Amazon. Sharebrokers E*Trade and Datek and search vehicle Excite could not be reached.

For the sceptical, the denial of service attacks were a clear indication that computer security is important in the e-commerce age. And there were many sceptics.

Early this year, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in association with the Information Systems Audit and Control Association released the findings of a survey of executives in 46 countries about their attitude to risk and computer security. That research revealed "a consistent assessment among those questioned that e-commerce security presents low risk. With regard to the risk of the availability of e-commerce, denial of service and destruction of Web sites are perceived to present the highest level of exposure, albeit low-risk overall."

It continued, "the most surprising finding from our research is that 69 per cent of companies with no security policies are also satisfied with the achievement of their control objectives."

Run that by me one more time. Seven out of 10 companies had no security policies and did not think they were at risk. Presumably, after the February denial of service attacks and May's I Love You epidemic, those seven out of 10 are reviewing their opinions.

They should. Computer attacks are escalating. According to the Australian Computer Emergency Response Team, which offers a remedial and advisory service to companies which are hacked or attacked, by March of this year 1823 unauthorised incidents had been reported - seven more than in the entire 12 months of 1999. By the end of this year that will have soared again, nudged considerably by I Love You.

The corporate world clearly felt the brunt of the May virus attacks, but consumers and small business were also affected, and were without the large corporate information systems departments, which could be called upon to fix problems.

Again, it served as an important reminder about not only the need for antiviral software, but also for good general computer hygiene. This includes the need to regularly update virus checkers and download new versions when they become available, the overwhelming need for regular and thorough backups, and the requirement for vigilance with unsolicited e-mail. I Love You may have been neutralised, but other virus strains will be under development somewhere.

And, meanwhile, the Government is eking out those $2 million to protect our national information infrastructure. Let's hope they don't spend it all at once.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Beverley Head

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?