German e-commerce industry has security jitters

Germany's small and medium-sized electronic commerce companies are putting security issues at the top of their agenda, according to a new survey by an industry group.

Among members of Electronic Commerce Forum e.V. (Eco), 87 percent believe that spending on security for company networks and Web servers will achieve growth above the IT industry average; 22 percent are calling it the boom topic for 2002.

On average, companies doubled their spending for security between 2000 and 2001, even before heightened awareness of the issue hit the public after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Still, managers need to be convinced of the crucial need to beef up their competency in this area, said Olaf J├╝ptner, head of Eco's new working group on security.

"It was agreed in the working group that in the German small business sector it's less the 'techies' who have to be convinced than the management that decides about budgets," he wrote in e-mail. "Here the working group wants to create a few guidelines in the near future especially for management."

The first set of guidelines, on the topic "IT security and law," was released in a preliminary version for this year's Systems trade show, currently under way in Munich.

Among the other findings of the survey:

- 67 percent of Eco members have one or more employees responsible for security; 44 percent have an entire group or department - the cost of viruses and hacker attacks is on the rise; whereas in 2000 only 13 percent of companies suffered expenses of between 10,000 and 50,000 marks (US$4,645 to $23,223) from security breaches -- the maximum damage class in the survey -- in the first half of 2001, 43 percent of companies had already reached that damage level- the Code Red e-mail worm left most companies untouched, but in individual cases caused damage of up to 30,000 marks- more than half of respondents predict the Web will become more dangerous over time; 63 percent also believe mobile commerce applications will be the targets of viruses and hackers in the near future.

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