February 15, 2006 1:32 PM PST

Consumer distrust could lash e-commerce

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Symantec and VeriSign executives on Wednesday urged business leaders to protect the digital economy, warning that if online commerce doesn't become more trustworthy, consumers might fall back on old-fashioned purchasing methods.

"We can't go back to the old way of doing business; that's why creating confidence in the digital world is everybody's job," Symantec Chief Executive Officer John Thompson said during a keynote address at the annual RSA Conference here. "Unless each and every one of us, enterprises and consumers, can prove to the other that we are trusted partners, the risks associated with online transactions will become unacceptable."

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Video: Symantec CEO has a warning
At RSA 2006, Thompson says it won't be a major cyberattack that will cripple electronic business, it will be loss of consumer confidence.

Digital interactions touch almost everything consumers do, Thompson pointed out. "Even when we think we're unplugged, we're not," he said. Online transactions affect businesses as well, helping them cut costs, among other advantages. Businesses are thus heavily relying on the efficiencies of digital technologies and looking to employ them further in the future.

But as electronic commerce has grown, so has the number of security threats. Identity theft still tops the list of consumer complaints at the Federal Trade Commission, new data security breaches are often reported, and phishing is on the rise. All of those factors undermine trust in digital commerce, Thompson stressed.

VeriSign Chief Executive Officer Stratton Sclavos struck a similar chord in a separate keynote address Wednesday. "Consumer confidence (in e-commerce) has dropped," he said. Sclavos pitched VeriSign Identity Protection and other products sold by the Mountain View, Calif.-based company as part of the solution.

VeriSign Identity Protection, announced earlier this week, enables consumers to use a single security device, such as a one-time password-generating token, to authenticate any Web site affiliated with the service. VeriSign has won support from Yahoo, eBay and PayPal for the service, it has said.

VeriSign Symantec

Devices such as cell phones and USB storage gadgets can also be used for authentication on Web sites that use the new VeriSign Identity Protection, Sclavos said. "You can't convince consumers that they need to have a different security model everywhere they go," he said.

Thompson's speech was less of a product-specific pitch than a call to action for business leaders. "If we fail to create a trusted digital environment, we won't just slow the growth of e-business, but of all business," he said. "We must reach beyond the walls of our individual companies."

No simple solutions exist, however. "It's a complex issue, one that won't be solved with a protect-the-PC or secure-the-network mentality," Thompson said.

Addressing the issue requires a broad approach, he said. Yes, consumers still need to install security software, but public policy needs to help as well, Thompson said. He called on Congress to pass strong data security breach laws.

related perspective
Building consumer trust
Symantec CEO John Thompson
on threats to the digital future.

Thompson did give a glimpse of future Symantec products. The company is working on a database audit and security appliance that plugs into a company's network and logs all traffic to databases on that network. The log can aid companies in their audit and compliance programs, but the appliance also flags anomalous queries that could be a sign of an attack or of insiders accessing data they shouldn't have access to.

Additionally, Thompson mentioned a safe Web search service Symantec has been working on under the moniker Security 2.0. The service would display a Web site credibility rating and user reviews on the search results page. Symantec has not said when, or if, it will deliver that product.

See more CNET content tagged:
VeriSign Inc., consumer confidence, e-commerce, John Thompson, Symantec Corp.


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I don't think people will stop shopping online
I don't think people will stop shopping online. Each year the amount of e-commerce continues to increase. Brick and mortar stores will continue to do well even if online stores lose business.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
on line shopping
people will almost always shop on line from now on.....i think it may slow down. But it is the younger generation that will do most of it for the convience. Most of the other generation that shop on line would be your home bound, hard to get out and around people. People will always go for fast & convienence, this is a fast & convienence society we live it today.
Posted by splash72471 (1 comment )
Link Flag
let's hope it kills e-commerce-just another way to force materialism on us.
Posted by infobama (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Har! Har! Snort! You crack me up there chief...
CNET loves to run with these over-the-top hand-wringing speeches from security company ceo's or self-appointed security specialists about how people are going to stop buying stuff on the web if security doesn't get better. Please! And people are going to stop driving automobiles in favor of walking if gas gets expensive, right? People can get exactly what they want as cheaply as they want only on the web, so they will continue to scoot like lemmings to their pc with or without better security. Saving money or time trumps security everywhere in life, and the web is no different.
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Digital interactions touch almost everything consumers do, Thompson pointed out.
That s the one of the nice ideeas.
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<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.referatele.com/referate/romana/online1/romana_cont.php" target="_newWindow">http://www.referatele.com/referate/romana/online1/romana_cont.php</a>
Posted by mess487 (5 comments )
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You cannot fool the people 100% of the time
You cannot fool the people 100% of the time

The IT Security giants have had a good run to be naked and have no clothes on. Like the proverbial Emporer they talk that talk but its getting cool out behind because they have no security in house that truly meets FFIEC standards and they know it.

The government keeps asking politely is the IT Security Industry ready and the industry says we are almost got an answer but no prize.

Try almost breathing or almost being married. I almost caught a thief is unacceptable if you have the technology that the U.S. has.

In addition, one thing is certain. The IT Security Kings are all naked without clothes. I am not bowing before naked gentlemen who are supposed to be all that.

Sometimes I think the world is insane because stupidity like this prevails. That's what I think. Ciao now.
Posted by Iohagh (54 comments )
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