IT security fears holding back US e-commerce

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One in four U.S. consumers will not shop online this holiday season due to internet security concerns, according to a new survey from the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

Almost all (96 percent) of online consumers surveyed believe it is important to protect themselves online, and most are doing just that. Over half (53 percent) responded that they are planning to upgrade their computer security software within the next three months, and the vast majority said they are actively seeking information from their friends, families, co-workers, ISPs, tech web sites and the media on how to shop safely.

The survey also indicated that consumers are concerned about e-commerce transactions when shopping on auction sites with 71 percent of the U.S. respondents worried about bidding/selling goods on auction sites.

While 61 percent of consumers predict internet security concerns will affect their online holiday shopping at some level, more than four out of five (81 percent) say they are using anti-virus software on their computers, and around two-thirds have also installed anti-spyware (67 percent), email filtering/spam blocker software (65 percent) and firewalls (63 percent).

"It's welcoming news that internet security is top of mind for consumers this holiday season," said Neil MacBride, BSA's vice president of legal affairs.

"The good news is that we have found consumers are taking proactive steps to protect themselves to ensure a safe online shopping experience. The bad news is that nearly two-thirds say internet security concerns will affect their shopping at some level this year. Our message to consumers is that a user's most important protection is his or her own awareness," he said.

These results are part of a study, commissioned by BSA and conducted by Forrester Custom Consumer Research, examining 1,099 U.S. consumers' internet security needs and the steps they are taking to protect their personal information online. The study is part of a larger survey of more than 4,700 Internet users in Canada, Germany, Great Britain and the United States.

According to the survey, 84 percent of U.S. online consumers believe that some internet retailers have not done enough to protect their customers, and 76 percent would like to be better educated on how to protect themselves.

Consumers' top concerns about protecting themselves from online security threats include protecting their personal information from being sold to a third party (79 percent) and identity theft (74 percent). Spam, credit card fraud and computer viruses were also areas of concern for consumers.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) is partnering with BSA to help raise awareness for how to enjoy a safe online shopping experience.

"The speed and ease of shopping online can alleviate holiday hassles, if you take the proper precautions to protect your computer and your personal information," said CBBB's Steve Salter, vice president, BBBOnLine.

"The Better Business Bureau believes an educated consumer is an empowered consumer. Armed with the right information, Internet shoppers are more likely to make sensible online purchasing decisions that will ensure a happy holiday."

Copyright © SC Magazine, US edition

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