Security chief asks if success will spoil the Net

VeriSign CEO Stratton Sclavos lauds the Internet's growth but says bad guys are following the money, launching attacks and spreading fear that can hamper adoption of new technologies.

SAN FRANCISCO--VeriSign's chief executive warned on Wednesday that as the promise of the Internet is being realized, so too are the opportunities it presents for mischief.

CEO Stratton Sclavos said at the RSA conference here that the Internet is reaching the heights predicted before the dot-com bust. For example, Sclavos noted, e-commerce transactions rose from $35 billion in 2001 to $55 billion in 2003.

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However that success is attracting attention, not all of which is positive.

"Unfortunately, the bad guys have noticed too," Sclavos said. "They always follow the money."

One of the problems, Sclavos said, is that technology companies haven't made security simple enough, forcing customers to choose between security and simplicity.

"End users will always choose ease of use over security," he said. "We better just comply."

Sclavos cautioned that the cost of security issues involves not just damage from attacks but also the fear that is engendered.

"It is delaying and slowing the adoption of new technologies," Sclavos said.

In particular, he pointed to Web services, Wi-Fi and radio frequency identification systems as advances that have taken off more slowly because of security worries.

During his speech, Sclavos also made a pitch for his company's initiative to create a standard for user authentication, an effort announced earlier this week.

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