The Internet can seem like an entrepreneur's dream come true. The Web offers instant access to millions of consumers around the world and the ability to set up a virtual store, which can limit start-up costs. While the Web does offer a powerful platform for launching new ventures, e-businesses are subject to a variety of unique security concerns.
Viruses and Other Malware
E-businesses count on their Web servers and computers to run smoothly to keep business humming along. Computers that communicate with other devices on the Internet have the potential to download malicious software like computer viruses, worms and other malware that can inhibit a machine's ability to function properly. Malware can potentially result in data loss or the need for maintenance, both of which can cost e-businesses time and money. Malware can also impair customers' ability to use their own computers and access e-business sites. According to Consumer Reports, malware cost consumers about $2.3 billion in 2010.
The term software bug sounds similar to a virus or worm, which are themselves types of malicious programs, but it means something different entirely. A software bug is simply a mistake or oversight in a computer program or website coding that makes the site or program behave in an unintended way. A bug could result in something relatively benign, like minor aesthetic errors on a website. On the other hand, a bug could potentially cause major problems like site crashes and allowing users access to data that they are not supposed to see.
Active Malicious Threats
While malware can passively infect computers, outside parties can also actively attack web companies. An e-businesses usually lets users interact with a website, possibly by registering for an account and submitting various forms to the business's web server. Experienced computer users may be able to exploit weaknesses in a website to gain access to or "hack" into data that they are not supposed to be able to access. Hackers can potentially steal information like customer names, credit card numbers and passwords, or they may inject malicious code into a website that causes data loss. For example, Sony's PlayStation Network was the victim of a major hacking operation in 2011 that resulted in the theft of millions of users' personal information. Malicious users may also pretend to be trusted authorities or friends in an attempt to trick employees or managers into divulging sensitive information. This method of stealing data is called "phishing."
Physical Data Theft
Most of the threats to e-businesses come through the Internet itself, but businesses can also be subject to physical data theft. If a thief steals the physical hardware that a company uses to conduct business, such as hard drives or Web servers, he may be able to recover confidential information. Since there are several ways e-businesses can potentially lose important data, it is important to make backup copies of data on a regular basis and ensure that physical plants are secure.
Wireless and Mobile Security
Many businesses use wireless Internet connections and mobile devices to access the Web. Wireless networks present a security hazard, since outside users can attempt to connect to a wireless network, allowing them to potentially eavesdrop on communications. Securing a wireless network with a password can make it more difficult for outside users to connect to the network and access sensitive information, but a wireless connection is not as secure as a wired connection, even if it has password protection. Mobile devices can be a security concern both because they use wireless communication and because they are easy to misplace.