Still a key problem

WHILE SECURITY concerns are still a key issue for computer users, the increased comfort that people have in transacting online has taken the edge off the paranoia that previously pervaded this area.

So says Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer of BT Counterpane, who says that while there’s criminal activity online, the levels are still reasonably low.

"What we’ve seen is a transition of the virus writer from someone who was doing it for his own self-interest to those looking to use viruses as a tool for their criminal activities. As a result, malicious software is being written with more care and with the intent of operating at a slower pace and without being detected.

"One of our biggest problems is that it’s almost impossible to determine the exact scale of the problem. We have no way of measuring it and companies are typically reticent to reveal when they’ve had a security breach or have had client data exposed," Schneier says.

He adds that in the future that’s likely to change but that regulatory forces will drive it. "That was the case in the US, where California passed a law forcing companies to disclose when they have lost customer data. Suddenly the theft of credit card data came to the fore as an issue."

He adds that the best way to ensure that systems are kept secure is to make software manufacturers liable for breaches caused by errors on their part. "Consumers are currently paying for security breaches, but once that liability shifts, the incentive will be there for companies to build secure systems."

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Still a key problem