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Online scams blight outlook

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So much for the "digital revolution". The Gartner Group is revising its e-commerce predictions downwards after 42 per cent of users said they were cutting back net use because of security concerns. As a result, Gartner is shaving one to three per cent off its growth estimates. It had previously reckoned that online business would grow by 15 per cent next year.

A third of concerned users are buying less online than they otherwise would. More than a quarter surveyed said they were cutting back on online banking. Of those registering concern about online banking security, four per cent have abandoned online banking completely, while 14 per cent have stopped paying bills online.

More than half of the sample has received a phishing email, and malware and reports of wholesale identity theft are also factors.

"Consumers' fears about online fraud have increased as more have received phishing emails, their computers are fouled with thieving viruses and hacker programs and companies reveal mass thefts of credit-card numbers from databases," reports the Wall Street Journal.

Personal information on 40m credit card users in the US went astray - the latest in a succession of ID breaches - and a Sun reporter described how he could pick up online banking passwords and credit card information for £4.25 ($7) a name from an Indian call center.

Gartner analyst Avivah Litan calls it a watershed year, and she's not exaggerating.

The problem is a lot easier to describe than it is to fix. Browser and OS security are only part of the problem: many scams rely on the very flexibility permitted by the internet's protocols to spoof websites and email addresses. Nor would "closed" networks entirely solve the problem, either.

However, the consensus is gradually shifting away from the utopians and fantasists to discussing practical alternatives to the IPv4 wreckage we are stuck with today. Last year a report recommended TCP should be replaced within five to ten years, and Intel SVP Pat Gelsinger has advocated a "superstructure" to be built on today's protocols.

All of which suggests that Web 3.0 will look a lot more like France's Minitel than anyone can have envisaged. But it isn't 1994 anymore. ®

Related stories

Stalling net must dump TCP/IP and overlords
The Sun exposes UK ID theft racket at Indian call centre
Unauthorised research opened door to MasterCard breach
UK trojan siege has been running over a year
UK under cyber blitz

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