Open For Business

Safety Net

With consumers still wary of buying online, there's a movement underway to improve security. "Security is a [concern] that everyone on the Internet shares," says Rebecca Duncan, senior analyst of information security with Datapro Information Services Group, an information technology research and analysis firm in Delran, New Jersey. "We're seeing a lot more interest from commercial vendors to work with security vendors."

Encryption systems are one way to make online transactions more secure. While the concept is quite technical, here's a basic explanation of how it works: Encryption software takes text (such as an order with a credit card number) and scrambles it. Then, "public" and "private" keys are used to encode and decode the message. The public key can be distributed and is used to encrypt messages. The owner's private key is closely held on his or her computer, and only when put together with the message encoded with the public key will the message revert to clear text (without the private key, the public key is useless for translating the message).

Furthermore, there are "digital certificates" and "digital signatures." Digital certificates are endorsed by a third-party that guarantees certain information in the message is accurate. Digital signatures confirm that the message was sent by the authorized user and wasn't tampered with en route.

Systems that include these features are complicated to design, so entrepreneurs need to work closely with security vendors to set up the process, Duncan says. VeriSign (http://www.verisign.com ) and GTE CyberTrust (http://www.cybertrust.com ) are two leading companies that offer such security products.

There are a lot of things to consider when building an Internet commerce site. Those who decide to jump in would do best to keep on top of the latest technology advancements and keep in mind that with a little work, a mountain of sales may be just around the corner.

Contact Sources

Breakthrough Software Inc., 2087 Landings Dr., Mountain View, CA 94043, http://www.breakthroughsoftware.com

Datapro Information Services Group, 600 Delran Pkwy., Delran, NJ 08075, http://www.datapro.com

IDC/Link, msullivan-trainor@idcresearch.com

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This article was originally published in the December 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Open For Business.

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