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Solving the Web security challenge
Written by Daniel   
Thursday, 28 June 2007 21:30

Cnet takes an in-depth, four parts over four days look, at the future we face with our security going on line and going on line with major corporations as it's guardians. Here is part Four:

 Solving the Web security challenge
By Mike Ricciuti and Joris Evers
Staff writers, CNET
June 28, 2007, 4:00 AM

The Web, for better or worse, has arguably become the equivalent of a massive public agency. It is the repository for consumer information and services of the most sensitive and important nature, ranging from medical records to financial investments.

Web-based services are supplanting traditional desktop software at a blinding pace, taking over terabytes of personal data in the process. Unlimited e-mail storage and Web 2.0-style start-ups will accelerate that trend even more.

Yet access to those massive and indispensable resources is generally gated by a handful of large, profit-driven corporations. Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, America Online and other leading companies have largely built the services that much of the world has come to rely on in everyday life--making them, in effect, the guardians of our most sensitive information.

Which raises an obvious question: Is that a good idea? The most disturbing answer, if history is any guide, is that we may not have much of a choice.
It's disturbing on many levels, but mostly because the industry is basically making up Web security as it goes along. As security executives from Microsoft, Google and Yahoo attest, the companies are in many cases adapting standard desktop security techniques to new Web applications. Sometimes that works; sometimes it doesn't.

"Data is now available online, all the time," said Billy Hoffman, lead researcher at Web security specialist SPI Dynamics. "It's a great big target."

Hoffman's job is to understand where Web security breaks down. The way he sees it, the Big Three Web properties are doing a fairly good job with security, at least on the server end of the equation. The wild card is what happens to that data once it leaves the Googleplex, travels across the network, and gets cached on users' desktops.

Since 1999, more than 90 percent of all documents have been produced digitally; more than 42 percent of all U.S. Internet users have Web-based banking services; and more than 160 billion e-mail messages are sent daily, according to computer services firm CSC and other sources. As the data piles up, it becomes harder to secure bits flowing between servers and desktop Web applications, not to mention the additional complexity of mashups and other Web 2.0 technologies. Simultaneously, attacks are on the rise.... Much More

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