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BSA Warns of Security Risks to Middle East Internet Users

With the rapid growth of e-commerce worldwide, there are increasing concerns over the security of transactions and the very integrity of the Internet.

At seminars conducted during this year's Gitex Cairo '99, Ashok Sharma, director of the Business Software Alliance (BSA) Middle East, explained the security issues that threaten all organisations in the Middle East that incorporate e-commerce as part of their daily business.

"The growth of the Internet unfortunately brings complacency among users who have been lulled by its accessibility and efficiency that it is a panacea to many business challenges," explained Sharma. "While the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of e-commerce is beyond doubt, the fact remains that it is as open to exploitation by external and internal threats as any other aspect of business."

He said that the Internet is open to deliberate and accidental corruption. The huge uptake of Internet technology around the world means that security issues must be addressed quickly and effectively.

Each organisation currently has the option of deploying a number of Internet and e-commerce security barriers, depending on the level of protection required and whether the threat is external or internal. Digital signatures and encryption techniques are now starting be used, having made the leap in the number of users from defence applications to commerce.

"Organisations in the Middle East are in a very fortunate position with regard to e-commerce security," said Sharma. "As most organisations within the Middle East were either late adopters of Internet technology or, indeed, may have yet to exploit the e-commerce area of the Internet, it will be easier for them to incorporate security checks."

"Governments across the world are hoping to capitalise on the incredible success of the Internet by seeking ways of imposing new tariffs, taxes and export restrictions on the its use," said Sharma.

Precautions in the e-commerce arena need to be taken at international, national and individual levels, he said. Governments need to refrain from imposing new taxes, tariffs and import/export restrictions for e-commerce while ensuring intellectual property protection across international boundaries.

Individual organisations need to assess their security risks and decide on the level of security required.

"Internet security will have to be reviewed as much, if not more, than other areas," concluded Sharma. "The rapid spread of the Internet is continually surfacing new opportunities. Governments, as well as businesses, need to be well aware of the continued need to review security strategies to ensure that e-commerce business is secure."