Technophobes Guide

Important Internet Issues


The increases in the use of email, the Internet and the world wide web has brought with it an explosion in threats and challenges to security. Consequently, businesses have to ensure that the highest level of security is implemented. To address these threats businesses need to have a comprehensive security policy which will usually involve:

  • Firewalls to protect your systems against ‘hacking’
  • Virus checking to protect your data
  • Barring undesirable sites to employees
  • Monitoring e-mail to avoid abuse

It is estimated that 80% of security breaches originate from company employees. A survey has found that 83% of companies were concerned about inappropriate employee usage of the Internet.


A virus is a programme designed to affect the way your computer operates. Some are malicious and can cause great damage. Many come in the form of seemingly innocuous e-mails with attachments. As a rule of thumb, never open an attachment sent with a document unless you are confident about its origination. Anti-virus software is easily and cheaply obtainable and should be updated regularly.

Read more in our Computer Virus Guide.

Loss of confidentiality

If your computer is permanently connected to the network, as it may be if you are connected via ISDN or ADSL, it is possible for someone to hack in (gain unauthorised access) to your computer and invade your company records. A firewall is a programme to prevent this situation from occurring.


Do not send highly confidential information via e-mail. Anyone with the will and the technical knowledge can intercept and read the message. If you need to send classified or confidential information over the Internet, you can purchase encryption software to put your message into code before sending it.


The sheer volume of traffic on the Internet means that at certain times data transfer can be slow, particularly when downloading files or web pages. Bottle necks can occur in the system so that even if you have invested in a high speed phone link such as ISDN, you may still encounter delays. It is worth bearing this in mind when designing your web site and keeping your web pages relatively small and simple for faster downloading.

E-commerce Legislation and Taxes

Internet purchases are subject to the same legislation and taxes as in ordinary shops.

  • Make your terms clear. Ensure your customers know how much they will be paying, including VAT and any additional charges, such as postage and packing. Also spell out how items will be dispatched and how long it will take to deliver an order.
  • You are liable to taxes and VAT in the same way as ordinary shops.
  • Take advice from an expert if you are new to exporting abroad regarding documentation, customs clearance and collection of taxes and duties

Data Protection and the Internet

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), formerly the Data Protection Commission (DPC), takes a strict line against any company abusing the Internet to misuse personal information. If you collect and use personal data there is also potential for you to breach their privacy. Therefore you must comply with the legal requirements of the 1998 Data Protection Act, which aims to safeguard personal data.

Read more about Your Business and the Data Protection Act.

The Distance Selling Directive

The Office of Fair Trading has discovered over 50% of all UK e-commerce web sites may be breaking the law by failing to give easily accessible information on refund and exchange policies.

Under the Distance Selling Directive consumers have certain rights when buying goods or services where there is no face-to-face encounter, in addition to existing statutory rights. These include:

  • Clear information, which must be given before customers place an order
  • Written information about a purchase
  • A cancellation period during which an order can be cancelled without any reason and a full refund made
  • A full refund if goods and services are not provided within 30 days of placing an order if no date was agreed
  • Protection against credit card fraud
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