CNN Technology

Is the Internet a secure place to do business?

Netscape flaw raises questions

Transcript from `CNN Computer Connection'
September 23, 1995
Web posted at: 5:20 p.m. EDT

BRIAN NELSON, anchor: Hello, everyone and welcome to the CNN Computer Connection. I am Brian Nelson.

(voice-over) And, coming up on our show today: Is the Internet a secure place to do business? That is the question many people are asking after flaws were found in Netscape's software.

(on camera) Aside from being a giant research tool, the Internet is also becoming a vast commercial frontier. As we speak, companies are scrambling to hang their shingle out on the Net, hoping that this is where people are going to be doing business in coming years. But the discovery last week of a security flaw in the popular Netscape Internet software has sent a chill through those hopes.

Here with more on the story is Susan Reed.

SUSAN REED, CNN News: (voice-over) Shopping on the Internet is at your fingertips with Netscape's Navigator: order from major catalogs, send flowers; the possibilities and future are endless. Just give them your credit card number.

But two computer science students at the University of California, Berkeley, have cracked the code that made those credit card transactions secure, throwing the future of commerce on the Internet into doubt.

IAN GOLDBERG, hacker: They are saying 'Put your financial data in our hands and we will keep it secure. Really, we will, trust us.' So when a big company says that to me I don't trust them.

REED: (voice-over) Netscape, the company whose software most people use to shop the Internet, says the problem is relatively easy to fix and will be fixed next week.

MIKE HOMER, vice president, Netscape: The truth of the matter is that we have had over 8 million customers doing business for almost a year now, on the Internet. During that time we've never had a report of any of our customers' information being stolen.

REED: (voice-over): Virtual Vineyards sells wine to customers via Netscape. They say, despite the security flaw, commerce on the Internet is here to stay.

ROBERT OLSON, president, Virtual Vineyards: Oh, absolutely. The cost advantages and the convenience advantages for the consumer are too immense to be ignored.

REED: (voice-over): Using your credit card on the Internet is similar to using it in the store.

(on camera) If a hacker did gain access to your credit card number, your personal liability would be limited to $50.

(voice-over) Experts say the key to computer security is checking products thoroughly before they go to market, something Netscape is doing now.

JIM BIDZOS, RSA Data Security: I think it is absolutely critical that security be embedded in these products, that it be done right. Because the stakes will be higher and there will be more people who are going after larger targets.

REED: (voice-over): It could be that what we are seeing here are just some of the missteps and bumps along the way, as electronic commerce becomes as widespread as this used to be.

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