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Doing business on the Internet

Weigh risks and rewards of on-line commerce

by on
in Office Technology

With the growth of the Internet, you may wonder what role the Web should play in your company’s business. We asked Edward Rosenfeld, publisher of BusinessTech.Com, a leading tracker of on-line business trends, to respond to some scenarios.

Q: An employee just used our corporate credit card to buy equipment at a Web site. Will thieves find our account number and use it illegally?

A: Despite the high incidence of credit card fraud, there’s actually very little fraud linked to the Internet. Handing your credit card to a store clerk is far riskier than typing your card’s number onto the Net, says Rosenfeld.

Q: A colleague of mine often downloads shareware and other computer programs from the Net. Our computers are networked. Can our equipment be infected by a Net-borne virus?

A: It’s far more likely that a virus will enter your company’s system when an employee brings in an infected disk, says Rosenfeld. That’s why anti-virus software is so crucial, regardless of whether you use the Internet. Moreover, all the media attention directed at the Net would make any spreading virus front-page news. You’d probably read about it before your company faces an actual risk.

Q: I just e-mailed our business plan to our accountant. Will competitors be able to intercept it?

A: The structure of the Net discourages interception because e-mailed documents reside in fragmented form at different points in cyberspace as they’re transferred. If hackers want to read your e-mail, they’d find it easier to break into your internal computer files, where documents are whole, or bug the sending or receiving computer, says Rosenfeld.

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