The Internet has created a new market for business, but where there is commerce, there is also the potential for criminal behavior. Cyber-crimes come in all varieties, mimicking those in the real world.
Industrial espionage, credit card fraud, software piracy, burglary... all exist on the Internet.
Using software tools, for example, it is often easier for cyber thieves to break into a business's computer system than it is for a burglar to break into an office.
From a remote area, cyber thieves can then steal data, credit card numbers, or company secrets.
Of course there are protections. But the problem, says Frank Prince of Forrester Research, is that Internet criminal technology is evolving as quickly as Internet crime fighting technology. "The scenario that we have here is very much a cold war escalation kind of scenario," he said. "Somebody comes up with a new bad thing that they can do to you. You come up with a new defense, and you end up leapfrogging. So at any given moment in time, a certain proportion of your population is at risk."
And then there are the Internet viruses that can do everything from destroying a firm's hardware system to defacing its web site.
If you intermingle with human beings, you are susceptible to catching their illnesses, says Bill Malik, cyber-crime analyst for the Gartner Group. If you do business on the Internet, you are susceptible to Internet viruses attacks.
But Mr. Malik says there are protections. "Recently we are experiencing this problem with the Nimda worm," said Bill Malik. "It can be avoided by putting a simple patch against the Internet server software. The patch has been available for a long time. Systems are being affected because people have not taken the time to locate and install that patch. "
Mr. Malik says Internet criminals' best friends are businesses that have not taken the time to update and install the latest security systems. "Nice people do not connect weak machines to the Internet," he said. "You can spend just a little bit of money and put in some strong protections so that your machine will not be taken over and used as a host to launch a service attack. Install anti-virus software. Use a software firewall."
Analysts predict that by 2004, 8 percent of all commerce will be conducted on the Internet. As Internet use grows, Mr. Malik says, the Internet security business will escalate.