March 08, 2001, 3:30 PM — Of all the issues that come up when putting together a business-to-business e-commerce site, security is the most pressing.
In a recent Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) business-to-business study, security was rated as "very important" by almost all of the participants.
Many companies understand the importance of security -- but even though the awareness is there, that does not mean that intention matches reality. If youre conducting e-commerce with other companies, its important to thoroughly check out their security infrastructure to ensure that you arent putting your company at risk. Remember, when it comes to security -- especially business-to-business security -- its only as strong as the weakest link. This can be unnerving, particularly when dealing with multiple business partners. But on the other hand, theres no security problem if all of the partners adhere to strict security standards and procedures.
Another interesting and surprising finding is that instead of Web infrastructure platforms or cool Web development tools, security is the software component that drives the selection of other tools for a business-to-business site, according to EMAs study. The main security technologies that business-to-business companies are using today (in descending order) are passwords, virus detection software, firewalls, security management software, trusted Web servers, security monitoring tools and encryption.
The heavy reliance on passwords is alarming, since passwords are relatively easier to crack than other authentication technologies. Public-key infrastructure, digital certificates, smart cards and even biometric authentication are also used, but by a much smaller number of business-to-business companies. That may not be the case for long, since many have plans to implement such technologies -- as evidenced by the fact that the most prevalent data security method planned for implementation in the next year is smart cards.
The good news for business-to-business companies is that security awareness is high. It appears that although some business-to-business companies have their security infrastructures firmly in place, there are others that are still works in progress. So do your due diligence and be sure to check into the security measures that your e-business partners or potential partners have in place. When doing this, keep in mind that their weaknesses may become your own.