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Insufficient computer security threatens doing business online
(CNN) - In mid-January, a hacker stole 350,000 credit card numbers from Internet music retailer CD Universe.
One month later, another Internet company called RealNames warns 15,000 customers that intruders may have attained access to confidential financial information.
"We discovered within a couple of hours that [intruders] had made various attempts to access our customer records," said Keith Teare, CEO and chairman of RealNames.com. "That includes the names and address of our customers, their phone numbers, and even more seriously their credit card numbers and the expiration dates."
The emerging Internet economy has become a new frontier for criminals as well as a growing challenge for law enforcement.
"We target organized criminal groups, and most of them are moving toward the electronic medium," said U.S. Secret Service spokesman Gregory Regan. "They are moving toward hacking and intrusions into systems to obtain account information.
A 1999 survey by the Computer Security Institute of 521 companies found those reporting theft of proprietary information jumped from 18 percent in 1998 to 26 percent in 1999.
The survey also found that computer security breaches, including hacking and denial of service attacks, cost the companies $123 million.
"One of the problems with doing business online is that all of your personal information is stored by somebody else at their site," said Mark Rasch, senior vice president of Global Integrity and former head of the Justice Department's Computer Crime Unit. "You're really vulnerable to whatever security they've decided to put on their site."
But customers can take some common-sense steps to protect themselves, says Regan.
"Know who you are doing business with, know it's a reputable firm. Don't just jump at any Web page you see out there. Do a little background on it."
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