1 Oct 2002
Serviced Apartments Offer Valid Medium-Term Option(HKTDC Hong Kong Trade Services, Vol 02,2002)
Vol 2, 2002
IT & E-Commerce
HOW do SMEs take realistic steps to guard against the hi-tech dangers of security intrusion from Internet rogues?
Flourishing Internet technology has put millions of businesses online. This revolutionary advance in how merchants operate spawns sophisticated accounting and sales systems. Bundles of new electronic services, like e-payment, e-procurement and e-banking, help to streamline activity, improve efficiency, explore opportunity and boost competitiveness.
The downside is a degree of danger. New security threats lurk in electronic systems, although manufacturers and new-generation computer cops are working on solutions.
"There is no real difference in this danger for SMEs in Greater China and those elsewhere because Internet security is a worldwide problem. Everyone faces the same security issues," says TrustAsia chief executive Seth Jutan. Affiliated with US-based VeriSign Inc, TrustAsia specializes in Internet trust services.
"New viruses and hacking attacks are discovered regularly. As more people become IT literate, more hacking incidents emerge due to mischief rather than terrorist-like intentions to cripple networks," Jutan says.
Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Centre (HKCERT/CC) manager Roy Ko says more than 90% of the reported problems are with viruses. Among 10,000 identified viruses, most are "in the wild" (circulating out there).
HKCERT/CC provides a centralized contact point to report and secure an appropriate response to any electronic security incidents.
Ko says about 200 new viruses are identified each month and spread by the Internet, e-mail, removable media, shared folders and other means. Some major viruses appear at least once every few hundred e-mail messages.
In some countries, virus writing is not considered illegal. Yet the impact of any virus attack mounts quickly in terms of clean-up cost, lost productivity, damaged computer resources and even damage to company image.
Thiz Technology Group Ltd general manager Kevin Lau says SMEs in Hong Kong and on the Chinese mainland tend to ignore the crucial role of Internet security.
"Internet security is a multi-billion dollar industry, but SMEs often lack people with security experience. As a result, they face major dangers, including data loss, damage and leakage," Lau says.
"Even if they consult IT-solution companies, not all provide total solutions. Expensive investments always put small companies in a dilemma. How much security do they need? How much can they afford? Is it convenient? The more secure a system, the less the convenience."
Internet security measures can take many forms, including anti-virus software, passwords, firewalls and physical security.
Sometimes preliminary advice is free. For example, SME executives can visit the Web sites of Internet security providers to learn what is available, how much it costs and what dangers lurk.
"Our Web site updates people on existing vulnerability. Industry magazines and newspapers also provide information. Staff training is another option to protect against threats," Jutan says.
The Information Technology Services Department of the Hong Kong government provides IT and Internet security information online at www.itsd.gov.hk/itsd/english/secure/esecure.htm.
At Hongkong Post, electronic services general manager Michael Chung urges SMEs to protect their networks by installing digital certificates, e-mail scanning software and firewalls.
The Hong Kong Productivity Council's DigiHall 21 programme (www.digihall21.org) serves IT needs all along the value chain, advising on the likes of resources planning and business intelligence.
SMEs should consider contracting with an Internet security firm to conduct audits and risk assessments of their networks. Such evaluations can include an internal security audit and external penetration test. Ideally, such work (once a year at a minimum) follows any major change to a Web site or firewall. Furthermore, passwords should change regularly, always to something not easily guessed.
The latest trend is to go wireless. "People look to be more mobile by conducting transactions on the Internet. These transactions can be in the form of communications or fund transfers. Generally, information from wireless transactions is easier to intercept than that in the wired world," Jutan says.
E-commerce will become yet more remarkable in mid-2003 when the Hong Kong government launches new multi-use smart ID cards with optional free digital certificates for its 6.9 million people. Certificate holders can conduct online transactions, like banking, stock trading, licence renewals and tax filing.
"The e-Cert provides a smart ID cardholder with a unique digital signature to verify identity. It acts like an electronic ID and can be used to encrypt a message to ensure content security. Synergy between the smart ID card and e-Cert should be a catalyst to boost e-commerce," says Chung.
WRITTEN BY PRUDENCE LUI
|The Wall Display Unit from 3M integrates a multimedia projector, digital whiteboard and stereo sound into a single communications solution.|
AN office telephone rings. You pick it up, and the boss orders you to attend yet another conference. Hasty packing, cramped airplanes and more precious time away from your family all follow. Upon arrival, things turn worse with boring presentations, organizers fumbling at outdated equipment and difficulty understanding anyone.
Fortunately, technology will soon eradicate this scenario and dramatically change conferences, exhibitions, presentations and even routine business meetings.
Hong Kong is famous as a great place to do business and a key venue for conferences, exhibitions and presentations. Rivalries with other regional centres inspire constant business facility improvements.
Trade fairs or exhibitions, like the Hong Kong Electronics Fair and the Hong Kong Int'l Jewellery Show, attract tens of thousands of visitors. Conferences, like one the Hong Kong Society of Accountants has organized for this November, attract more than 5,000 delegates.
Such events are ideal to showcase advances in audio equipment. In conference discussions, people can simultaneously participate using numerous languages. Hi-tech voting systems for immediate decisions by delegates are becoming another necessity.
Such advances make conferences, exhibitions and presentations less stressful and more enjoyable for speakers and participants alike. They also facilitate much larger conferences.
"Hong Kong is entering a new era when more and more conferences will be held here," says Quadra Technic ICS Ltd representative Eliza Kam.
Manufacturers like NEC Hong Kong Ltd make projectors specifically for use at conferences. These have higher brightness and can operate from longer distances. New Digital Light Processing (DLP) units use computer chips instead of bulkier traditional components, making them more compact and portable.
"For sheer convenience, DLP units have the edge for average presentations," says NEC marketing officer Shelby Tai.
The new 3M Wall Display Unit, also using DLP technology, is deemed "so non-intrusive as to be almost invisible". This unit has no beam of light to break when someone steps in front of the screen.
The product integrates a multimedia projector, digital whiteboard and stereo sound into a "single, easy-to-use communications solution".
"It is the first time a single device can meet all presentation requirements with unprecedented simplicity and versatility," says 3M Hong Kong Ltd marketing supervisor Florence Yiu.
Modern audiovisual and Web-based presentation technology is making whiteboards and pointers obsolete. Watch for wireless-function projectors and more compact equipment with better performance.
Falling costs make the technology increasingly affordable and popular. Organizations like NEC and Quadra Technic ICS offer rental programmes for their projectors and conference equipment, creating a viable option even for companies that exhibit only 1-2 times yearly.
Another exciting development is the Webex Meeting Centre, allowing Web-based meetings with multiple users simultaneously sharing, discussing and modifying documents and ideas.
"The days of saving a file, sending it off by e-mail for modification and receiving it back will soon end. New technology saves time and travel while increasing convenience and efficiency," says Webex Asia Ltd managing director Tony Tsang.
Such applications allow seminars, product launches and training courses to occur online from the comfort of the office. PC-card functions for projectors and ability to use complex animation or video files in online conferences create immense interest and convenience.
"We need a little more education so the public is used to this style of doing business," says Tsang. With
Web cams the only necessary hardware for this application, more businesses will become involved.
"Infrastructure on the Chinese mainland and in India needs to reach the level of Hong Kong for this type of technology to work perfectly," Tsang says. The mainland is not far behind, thanks to its keen desire to create such capabilities.
Will technology soon eliminate the need to travel to conferences or meetings? Actually, people will always want to meet in person, shake hands and seal deals.
Tsang says the aim of modern technology "is not to eliminate face-to-face contact, but rather to enhance efficiency and convenience".
WRITTEN BY SEAN O'NEIL
|Visitors to leading Hong Kong trade fairs use PDAs to access and store event-related information supplied by the organizers.|
RAPIDLY becoming basic business tools, personal digital assistants (PDAs) can make life on the move considerably easier for busy SME executives. These "handheld" computing and communication devices are coming of age with new functions, more powerful capabilities and pocket-size convenience.
Meanwhile, mobile phone providers seek to hold consumers' attention by developing multi-function phones with Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) capabilities.
In Europe, mobile phones have found a niche as handheld information providers increasingly provide access to online information. Stock market quotes, sports results and tourist guides are all available at the press of a button.
In the US, people prefer small handheld PDAs for the same functions. Influenced by both markets, Asia becomes a testing ground to determine which platform prevails.
In Hong Kong, mobile phones have an incredibly strong market foothold, and many use WAP functions to access the Internet. They store messages and information, acting as diaries and memo pads while providing standard call facilities.
Yet PDAs, with more sophisticated information-based services, may gain an upper hand. Advances in PDA technology come fast and furious, especially in wireless Internet connectivity. The expanding capability of PDAs to store vast quantities of information creates more interaction with other handhelds, computers and mobiles.
In the past, most external PDA communication involved sending and retrieving Excel or Word documents. Recent models offer more complex functions like movie playback.
A representative of Palm Inc says increased versatility helps business users with multi-tasking applications: "This can be as simple as synchronizing the personal information management (PIM) functions like contact list, agenda, calendar and notes, or as complex as vertical corporate applications interacting with a backend system.
"Handhelds also align with users' business priorities - such as improving productivity, streamlining processes and enhancing collaboration with customers, business partners and field sales people."
In terms of portability, PDAs are wallet-sized and weigh 100-200 grams, not much heavier than mobile phones. They provide enough functions to seriously consider leaving laptops at the office. Executives have the added convenience of downloading files onto PDAs for meetings, conferences or travel. Soon PDAs will handle more advanced files, like PowerPoint materials, along with video and animation files.
Sophisticated entertainment functions on modern PDAs will attract more interest from consumers than the simpler equivalents on multi-function mobile phones. Yet for the PDA to continue developing as a serious business tool, manufacturers must focus on developing ever-better functions, especially wireless Internet capabilities.
"The next driver for the handheld market is wireless connectivity," confirms a representative for Palm Inc.
Already, there are major advances. The Palm VII and the BlackBerry Handheld are handhelds providing wireless service. With this technology, personal users can enhance productivity through fluid connectivity. This means they can link to information in various ways, including Bluetooth technology, which allows connectivity among handhelds, mobile phones, computers and corporate LANs with full Intranet access.
Hence, PDA users can access e-mail or browse the Web at any place or time with true mobility. Emerging technology allows location-based services to pinpoint exactly where the user is to send personalized information.
In today's information-based economy, such services should find buyers as people demand technology to immediately access needed information. With their bigger screens and ease of use, PDAs may outperform mobile phones for browsing the Internet.
If PDA manufacturers can continue expanding wireless Internet capacity and develop new services for individual needs, mobile phones may be forced to return to being mainly phones.
WRITTEN BY SEAN O'NEIL
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