Doing business on the Internet

Weigh risks and rewards of on-line commerce

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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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