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VISA paves the way for setting security 'standards'

IT security means competitive advantage in e-business?  It certainly looks that way!

.........read on........

Credit card giant VISA USA have formally announced a series of security guidelines that online merchants and Internet service providers will soon need to observe if they want to continue accepting the card for Internet transactions.

The guidelines, which cover everything from educating employees to security procedures to implementing secure firewall and encryption technologies will become mandatory for all ISPs assisting VISA transactions by the end of 2000 and for all online merchants by the end of 2001.  So far the guidelines have been just that but now, VISA is asking all online merchants and e-commerce outfits - no matter how small -to abide by the measures.

Most of the guidelines, such as' Encrypt data across networks' and 'never use vendor-supplied defaults for passwords and security' appear to be simple common sense.  But, Ali Ersheld, director of product marketing for Cybercrash, a Reston, Va.-based company that serves as a 'gateway' from the Internet to financial institutions, said the guidelines may not be as obvious to small startups as one might think.

"For the average e-business merchant, these guidelines are a good baseline and may be something they need to take a good look at."  Ersheid also said while his company already observes all of the steps laid out in VISA guidelines, he welcomed the standards as a means of raising consumer confidence in e-commerce.  "Sure, this could delay entry to some small businesses out there, but we'd prefer to have merchants take the extra steps to make sure their site is secure. Even if its a dinky little site, if somebody breaks in and steals credit card numbers, thatís just the kind of thing that gives e-commerce a bad name".

A VISA spokesperson said once the guidelines take effect, online vendors who accept VISA cards without implementing the security steps would be given a brief period to come into compliance.  After that, violators could face steep fines or be barred from using VISA services indefinitely.

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