The Internet is becoming an increasingly important vehicle for companies to communicate with suppliers. But organizations visiting or running Web sites and sending e-mail need to constantly upgrade their security to protect data from outsiders, said Lee Krotseng, manager of seminars and training, for International Purchasing Service, a Detroit-based supply management and purchasing personnel firm.

“The Web is a wide-open experience,” Krotseng noted. “If I send an e-mail, it goes through six or seven computer nodes. Any IT person can read that if it’s not encrypted.” Krotseng discussed supply chain security issues Tuesday at the Annual International Supply Management Conference and Educational Exhibit in San Francisco.

Organizations also face threats from cookies that are placed on their computer hard drives when workers visit Web sites. While the cookies make it easier for users to log onto sites, they also provide hackers access to account numbers. Firms should constantly delete cookies while also upgrading their anti-virus systems, he said. Krotseng said analysts expect that, by 2004, one out of every 100 e-mails will contain a virus, up from one in 300 today.

The majority of viruses are written to exploit Microsoft Outlook security holes, he said. They usually are successful because users don’t know about the software patches available to fix the holes. “E-mail software should be upgraded at least every three to six months,” he said.

Network firewall and anti-virus software should be enough to protect most systems. Each computer in a network can be secured for under $100, he added.

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