Internet safety 'should be treated like road safety'
Source: The Age
Date: January 22, 2004
Online fraudsters targeting bank customers were getting smarter and could undermine consumer confidence, security professionals warned yesterday.
And industry professionals believe internet safety should be taught like road safety to warn people about the risks of online security fraud.
At the Sydney launch of a product targeting scam banking emails, or phishing, Auscert general manager Graham Ingram said consumer protection had become an even more pressing concern than corporate online security.
Phishing occurs when hackers used false emails to fool the customers of bank and financial institutions to part with their password and account details by posing as their bank.
Ingram said fake websites were becoming more sophisticated and official-looking, with many emulating the hallmark warning notices of bonafide sites.
"They're getting smarter, they're learning from their mistakes," he said.
Although it was not clear to what degree internet fraud was diminishing e-commerce, Ingram believed it could degrade consumer confidence long-term.
"We're in a losing battle, but it's a battle we can't afford not to wage," he said.
Ingram said consumers were often lulled into a false sense of security because they used the internet from their homes.
People approached transactions on the web differently to ordinary interactions, he added.
While the onus was on banks and other businesses to inform people of the risks, he said consumers should also act more responsibly.
"It is your account details, it is your money, and you're basically giving it to someone else," he said. "Would you do that on the street? Probably not. Why is this medium any different?"
He said internet safety should be taught just like road safety.
Various educational approaches could be applied to raise awareness, including reaching children through schools or assisting older generations not so familiar with the internet.
MessageLabs technical director David Banes, whose company developed the new technology, Skeptic, said cyber crime was steadily increasing as more and more consumers banked online.
But he also agreed it could be reduced through education.
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