Consumers will be "driven from the internet" this year by the rising tide of spam and malicious code, an IT security expert has claimed.
Without rapid deployment of improved technology such as IPv6 to defeat the threat of viruses, spam and hacking, 2004 will be the worst year ever for security incidents and privacy breaches, warned industry veteran Stephen Cobb.
Cobb, a long-time e-security consultant for the US government, author and university professor of information assurance, said: "There is a limit to how many worms, 'phishing' schemes and fraudulent messages consumers and companies will take."
He added that "two years to solve problems like spam is too long", referring to recent statements by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates that a "magic solution" would help solve the spam problem within two years.
According to Cobb, many people in government and industry still fail to understand how lawless and vulnerable the internet is for consumers.
"I am not the only one who has sounded the alarm in recent years, but there have not been enough of us and certainly not enough folks in industry and government comprehend the message," he said.
"Consumer confidence in email and the web is being shaken as never before."
Cobb suggested that the increasing frequency with which corporate email systems crash under the weight of unwanted messages and malicious code like the recent Mydoom worm is making consumers fearful of the internet.
The problem can only be alleviated, according to Cobb, if government and industry co-operate to deploy improved internet security technology on a wide scale.
"If we finally implement IPv6, require strong authentication of websites and email senders, and upgrade the intelligence of routers and switches so that malicious activity is detected and impeded as soon as it starts, maybe then we will stand a chance," he concluded.
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