Wireless e-commerce takes a hit revisited

Before I delve in to reader comments about the security of wireless LANs for use in retail operations, further to last week's article, I have a quick clarification.

A Home Depot spokesman wrote in to say this: "Our entire front end - all of our point of sale terminals/cash registers - are hardwired and always have been. The only wireless applications we have are back-end stuff, inventory replenishment, etc. The reference to turning off the server means simply that we turn off the seven or eight mobile order-entry carts found in each of our 1,390 stores when they're not in use."

As for readers, many were disappointed with the lack of testing some retailers do when rolling out WLANs throughout their stores.

One reader said: "The vulnerability of wireless traffic to eavesdropping and interception when broadcast 'in the clear' is as old as the radio. The weaknesses of [Wired Equivalent Privacy] are well known, and have been for over a year. The compensating controls available (dynamic keying, rapid keying, and running it over a VPN tunnel) are equally well known.

Implementing an 802.11b solution in today's environment without engaging ANY security controls is not 'trial and error.' It is negligence."

He added, "I agree the wireless industry is nascent, fragile, and fraught with peril. I sympathize with, and feel sorry for, and give second chances to, people who try hard to do the right thing but get burned by a new vulnerability. That's just bad luck, and sometimes bad things happen to good people. People who just do an unforgivably bad job in an area where they are supposed to be applying their 'expertise' do not fall into that category."

Another reader responded to the insecurity of WEP as a whole.

"What makes you think the WEP protocol that protects data across an IEEE 802.11b will remain secure for very long. Give me a break - wireless is not secure regardless of what you do - it goes through the AIR period."

In addition to WLAN comments, a few messages were still trickling in about retailers working closely with their online counterparts.

A reader wrote: "I think people would use e-commerce on a broader basis if their local merchants that they know and trust offered e-commerce, with lower pricing to entice such purchases. Adding free delivery (same day) would also increase sales. People do not want to wait a week for product delivery when they can drive a few miles and pick up what they need... Web sites need to become less mechanical and more of an 'experience' for the shopper. Adding prizes, bonuses, specials and other incentives to make the experience more delightful might also help encourage impulse buying."

Another reader added: "It is true that companies are offering better buys online, but they are not promoting that fact and so customers are not motivated to use the channel. Until companies truly understand the concept of multichannel marketing integration and support customer friendly sites, I don't believe that the adoption curve will accelerate."

What do you think? Let me know at mailto:sgittlen@nww.com.

Sandra Gittlen is events editor for Network World's Seminars and Events. Previously, she was managing editor of Network World Fusion and senior reporter covering Internet research and standards for Network World magazine.

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