While computer security has traditionally been thought of as a fence to protect a company's electronic assets, e-security is now about enabling companies to release the full potential of their IT systems.
By recognising - and leveraging - the internet's shift from an information medium to a platform for business data and commerce exchange, many companies have found innovative ways to acquire new customers, sell and service existing customers, boost profits, reduce time to market, reap first-mover competitor advantages and increase efficiency.
Traditionally, companies have viewed security as a defensive tool against the risks of hackers and viruses. More recently, however, people have become more educated and understand other threats such as the denting of brand reputation, the loss of corporate trust, a reduction in shareholder confidence and the leaking of confidential information.
But while companies must protect themselves from these e-security threats they must also take advantage of the very qualities for which the internet has become so popular.
As companies use their online channels for critical process-oriented and information-intensive transactions, corporate assets become increasingly exposed.
To counter the risks of this exposure, today's more open businesses need a proactive, enabling e-security strategy - one that not only encourages new levels of interaction between business partners, but also safeguards online business processes, privacy and content.
To succeed in the ever-changing world of ebusiness, forward thinking organisations must now truly embrace e-security and the competitive advantage it offers.
In addition to keeping the bad guys out, companies must ensure that they are letting the right guys in, and to all the right places. E-security should be thought of as the 'who, what and where' of ebusiness.
Who can access your network? Authorisation allows an authenticated user to access various network resources, such as web pages and files based on the user's identity and associated privileges.
What information can be transferred in or out of your network? Content security enables companies to know exactly what is being transferred.
Where do specific privileges apply? Beyond simply identifying a user and permitting or denying authenticated users the right to use system resources, you need to control and restrict what a user can do once allowed into the network.
A policy determines who is granted access to what information and under what conditions this is allowed. True policy-based authorisation applications emulate real-world processes and environments, allowing you to create fine-grained policies and virtually limitless rules to manage access rights and permissions.
Sophisticated software now enables administration to be delegated into the hands of those closest to the end users, allowing the most logical policies for different organisations to be established quickly and efficiently. Once a policy is established and implemented, security software can be used to ensure that the policy is enforced.
With a clearly defined policy in place, companies are able to create a secure and trusted environment so that employees can communicate freely with, and securely open up parts of, their networks to partners and clients.
It should not be perceived as a defensive tool but as an enabler of more efficient business processes. E-security can actually help you improve your brand or image, build new sales channels, lower costs and generate higher revenues.
Knowledge, information and content are key growth determinants and companies stand to gain a great deal by opening up to partners and customers around the world.
However, it is only with the appropriate security technology in place that businesses are really capable of taking advantage of the opportunities that the globalised world presents.
Jonathan Tait is European product marketing manager at Baltimore Technologies.
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