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Security

Security: Trouble in mind

From viruses and worms to spam, fraud and theft, security problems have become perhaps the biggest headache in the high-tech industry today.

Security problems have become perhaps the biggest headache in the high-tech industry today.

Viruses and worms regularly bog down Internet traffic and turn employees' e-mail boxes into bogs of unwanted messages. Companies and individuals have also had to grapple with spam, fraud and theft of confidential information.

Solving these problems has not proved easy. Although most corporations have invested in firewalls and antivirus software, many companies don't or can't keep up with the relentless pace of security updates. Often, security technologies, such as Microsoft's Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB), formerly known as Palladium, are themselves controversial. Microsoft asserts that NGSCB will allow users to encrypt documents and secure them from theft. Detractors allege that the system will be used by film and music companies to curb file trading.

Greater vigilance, however, may serve to contain security problems. New products and services, such as intrusion detection systems and open-source software for spam control, also continue to emerge. For start-ups, security remains fertile ground.

The main players in security are Microsoft, the antivirus companies (including Symantec, Network Associates and Checkpoint Software Technologies), VeriSign and Cisco Systems. Standards bodies, a nebulous web of hackers and experts, universities and organizations such as the CERT Coordination Center, a clearinghouse for information on Internet threats, also play significant roles.