Usage of the Internet in Hong Kong continues to rise for the purposes of study, leisure activities and many kinds of commercial transaction, but concerns still linger about whether personal information and confidential data can be sent and stored securely at all times.
C H Lee, associate head of City University's Department of Computer Science, is well aware of the problem. "When members of the general public hear about any leakage of information, they tend to lose confidence. This sets back the development of electronic commence and Internet-based services, so better security technology must be applied," he says.
In Professor Lee's opinion, inadequate security has a direct impact on users, customers and service providers. If hackers or "cyber criminals" find any way to break into a system, there is no knowing what amount of damage or fraud may follow.
"For example, in the US, cases have been reported about the leakage of credit card information, with resulting financial losses estimated in millions of dollars," he says. "However, these problems are foreseeable and we can remedy the situation."
He notes that, if a leak has occurred, it is important to identify the source and take immediate corrective action. With the help of search engine operators and ISPs (Internet service providers), it may even be possible to remove much of the leaked information from the Internet.
Professor Lee points out that sometimes the original problem arises from the inexperience or carelessness of a systems manager. "IT professionals must give maximum attention to the implementation and monitoring of information and systems security in order to avoid these problems," he says.
While speaking positively about the general standard of professionals within the sector, he nevertheless emphasises that continuing education and refresher courses are essential. For instance, City University's MSc programme in Computer Science and Electronic Commerce provides up-to-date technical knowledge and even covers some of the legal aspects of implementing systems security.
"Hong Kong businesses can only benefit from having well-qualified IT professionals, if they want to improve consumer confidence in using Internet applications and boost electronic commerce," he says.
He is confident that specialist IT knowledge will continue to be much in demand not just for e-commerce initiatives, but also to support the finance, accounting and logistics systems on which so many organisations depend. "Knowledge of IT applications and Internet security is something that has real value in the job market," Professor Lee says.