The Internet allows individuals and companies to conduct business with each other, no matter where in the world they are located. This is possible because the Internet is a public network.
Many business transactions are of course sensitive in nature. You wouldn’t for example want to send your bank details or credit card number over an unsecured public network.
As the Internet has evolved as a conduit for doing business, a number of security and anti-fraud measures have been developed, allowing business and personal communications to take place securely and reliably.
Briefly, these measures fall into two main categories: encryption and identity verification. In other words, stop others from reading your communications and make sure the people you are communicating with are who they say they are.
SSL encryption has become a web standard. Used by online banking sites and applications such as Unified Software’s BankVal web services, SSL allows sensitive information to be handled securely and efficiently.
Data is scrambled as it travels between sender and receiver, ensuring that anyone who intercepts the message cannot read it.
SSL has an additional feature: web site authentication. SSL certificates, as they are known, are issued by Certification Authorities only after identity checks have been carried out.
This gives the user of a secure web site the ability (by clicking on the padlock icon) to check that a web site really does belong to their bank, rather than a criminal out to grab confidential information.
When it comes to checking the identity of an individual, there are the traditional ways of checking a passport/driving licence/utility bill, but these are by no means foolproof.
To improve on this, a number of companies now provide software and services to validate names (against the Electoral Roll) and addresses (against the Royal Mail PAF database).
Combined with checks against the registered credit card holder’s name and address, these measures can provide a useful defence against fraud.
Security and fraud prevention is a very large subject area – this article barely scratches the surface.
You are strongly encouraged to find out more and to keep abreast of the latest developments in the field. As ever, knowledge is the best defence.
Unified Software Ltd. is the UK's leading financial web services provider. Our pioneering BankVal family of services have been helping business run smoothly since 2003.