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The use of the Internet for business has been growing in spite of the dot.com bubble a few years ago. The open nature of the Internet enables connections across networks and individual computer terminals virtually on a global scale. Unfortunately, the absence of central control and regulation leaves the Internet exposed to the caprices and untoward intentions of the participants. In particular, it has invited current forms of illegality and business malpractices to migrate to the new sphere.
The types of illegality that thrive on the Net have been growing. The most widespread form is fraud. Fraud is committed through Web auctions, sale of online merchandise (including books, computer equipment and software), the provision of all kinds of Internet-based services (free e-mail, credit cards, advice, prizes and sweepstakes, stock quotes) and business opportunities (franchises, work-at-home schemes, pyramid sales). Consumers are subjected to the rigging of prices and imposition of undisclosed charges, the non-delivery of purchased goods or services, supply of defective products and all kinds of empty promises for which payment will have been made in advance. Often the perpetrator would be in another country or jurisdiction and the consumer could not do anything about the fraud.
Breach of security of networks and computers (known under the general name of ‘hacking') is another form of illegality. Perpetrators of such acts go beyond mere browsing through networks for fun and excitement; they engage in destruction or theft of data ,with ulterior motives of financial gain or plain sabotage. Hacking thus becomes a means of stealing vital information or data belonging to corporations or physical persons with a view to furthering the wishes of the hacker. Various forms of hacking have emerged over the years. Among them are eavesdropping on networks including through the planting of programs in the target network and inserting viruses into computer systems ('bombs') to vandalise the contents.
Both forms of illegality (fraud and hacking) have mushroomed along with the growing popularity of the Internet. There are no authoritative statistics on the incidence of forms of illegality in cyberspace because of the absence of agencies empowered to undertake such a task across the globe. However, surveys of all kinds have emphasised the need to tackle them if the Internet is to continue to expand as an avenue for business and general social intercourse.
In the U.S., the National Consumer's League routinely receives and logs complaints under the various headings of illegality mentioned above. According to the 2002 Internet Fraud Statistics compiled by the Internet Fraud Watch (of the U.S. National Consumer's League), fraud committed on online auctions and general merchandise sales constitute by far the most widespread (90% and 5%, respectively) of the top ten forms. The remaining forms of fraud involve Nigerian money offers, sale of computer equipment or software, Internet access services, travel/vacations, work- at-home schemes, credit card offers and advance fee loans. The most frequent means of perpetrating these frauds were websites (94%) and e- mail (6%).
Reports of breach of security of networks and invasion of privacy abound. The Internet Security Threat Report, for one, estimated that 'companies averaged 30 attacks per company per week over the past six months' to February 2003. It pointed out that 78 percent of all cyber attacks were a blend of various forms: 'viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and malicious code with server and Internet vulnerabilities to initiate, transmit and spread an attack.' 
Web-based businesses in particular have been concerned about the problems of fraud and breaches of security. The latter more than the former has remained the most important concern for such businesses and tops all efforts at making the Internet safe for business.
Symantec Internet Security Threat Report Sees Sharp Increase in Reported Vulnerabilities but Drop in Overall Attack Activity. Business Wire, February 3, 2003.
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