Security Pros Grow More Skeptical About E-Commerce

Most IT security professionals say they are much more wary of online shopping transactions than they were two years ago.

Did you eschew the Black Friday crowds and buy a gift for someone online on Nov. 27? If so, you entered yourself into the ranks of Cyber Monday shoppers.

But you wouldnt have the endorsement of IT security pros.

According to a study by nCircle, 59 percent of IT security professionals said they are much more wary of online shopping transactions than they were two years ago.

"IT security professionals know better than anyone the risk inherent in online shopping and this survey data highlights how much work the retail industry must do to ensure a secure online shopping experience," said Abe Kleinfeld, CEO of nCircle, a provider of enterprise-class vulnerability and risk management solutions, of his companys study.

According to the National Retail Association, U.S. shoppers will buy nearly 25 percent of their holiday gifts online this year, and the Monday after Thanksgiving kicks off the online shopping season.

Yet, Gartner reported Nov. 27 that these numbers could be much higher were it not for consumer security fears.

The Gartner survey found that retailers lost $2 billion in 2006 alone because of consumer security fears, with about one-half of those losses coming from customers too afraid to conduct any e-commerce.

But, it doesnt mean that online sellers arent raking in more than ever. According to comScore Networks, spending at U.S. sites during the first 24 days of November this year reached $8.31 billion, marking a 23 percent increase versus the corresponding days in 2005.

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Even Black Friday, known for being the busiest offline consumer shopping day of the year, saw particularly high online sales with $434 million spent, up 42 percent versus 2005.

Still, security professionals warn consumers to be cautious.

"According to Privacy Rights Clearing House, over 97 million Americans have had confidential information exposed since February 2005, and the pace of these data breaches continues to increase," said nCircles Kleinfeld.

"With the escalation and sophistication of online threats, there is a need for a scoring system for consumers to gauge the relative security of online merchants."

Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Ryan Naraines eWEEK Security Watch blog.