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A survey released this week by security technology vendor Entrust has highlighted consumer concerns about use of the internet. The results of the survey show that security concerns have not been eased by efforts that companies have taken to ensure the security of transactions made over their websites.

However, where consumers used to be primarily concerned about hackers stealing their credit card details, security concerns have become even more personal. Today, the survey commissioned by Entrust shows that a full 80 per cent of respondents that are existing internet users are concerned that someone will steal their identity were they to perform banking functions online. Whilst previously this was a problem that was largely confined to the US, it has become a growing problem worldwide over the past couple of years. In the UK, identity theft is the fastest growing form of fraud and the Home Office estimates that it is costing the UK alone £1.3bn per year.

Identity fraud is also changing in nature: whilst previously, around 70 per cent of identity theft involved the stealing of physical data from consumers, such as bank statements and other information stolen from discarded rubbish, there has been a dramatic rise recently in the phenomenon known as phishing. Also known as brand spoofing, phishing refers to a scam in which a website of, for example, a bank is spoofed. Consumers are often sent e-mails that appear to be legitimate and that often ask the recipient to follow a link to a website. The website to which they are directed will usually contain logos from the company that it purports to represent and may even contain some legitimate links. However, it is actually a copy of a company's real website and has been set up to dupe consumers into giving their personal and/or financial information over the internet.

Entrust's survey indicates that the problem of identity theft is a major concern for 80 per cent of respondents and they are specifically concerned about someone using their online credentials to access their bank accounts. This is a problem that is particularly prevalent in the online banking world - whilst 85 per cent of respondents stated that they purchased goods and services over the internet, just 59 per cent were using the internet to bank online.

However, the outlook is not entirely bleak for financial institutions that are trying not only to improve customer service by offering online banking, but are also trying to reduce their costs. Of those respondents that do not currently use online banking, 72 per cent indicated that they would be prepared to if security were improved, whilst 90 per cent of those that currently bank online would be prepared to take advantage of a wider range of value-added services if better identity protection were offering. Respondents also indicated that they would willingly use stronger security methods to protect their online identities, with 78 per cent willing to use a two-factor method of authentication instead of just a single password.

Whilst the financial sector is the number one target for identity thieves, all businesses could benefit from paying greater attention to the provision of higher levels of security. Another survey just released by Logica CMG indicates that one in twenty consumers has experienced an attempted or actual theft of financial or personal details whilst carrying out online transactions such as banking and shopping. When asked if they would continue to buy from an online retailer again when their personal or financial information had been compromised by that retailer, 79 per cent of respondents indicated that they would not use the online service again - and 65 per cent stated that they would stop purchasing from that company altogether - whether online or at a high-street outlet.

Security technologies for improving online services exist and companies should take a long hard look at those they are deploying on customer-facing sites. Lack of security may not just be losing companies potential revenue, but may also be damaging their corporate reputation.

© IT-Analysis.com

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