A series of high-profile hacking incidents of late has tested Chinese net users’ trust in the safety of the online services they use. Thus far, online banking and financial information seem to have been largely untouched. But one Chinese security analyst suggests that online banking may not be any safer than other online activities.
Song Guoqin, the CEO of a major information security company in Guangdong, shocked reporters from the Guangzhou Daily when he told them that despite his security expertise — or perhaps because of it — he doesn’t use online banking or payment systems in China:
“I’m in [the] information security [industry] and I don’t have an internet banking account, I’ve never even applied for one. I’ve never paid for an item online or ordered one myself, I do all that via friends so I can stay away from that environment [...] In this industry, the more you understand, the more you worry about. It makes you behave cautiously.”
Mr. Song — who sounds like a terrible friend, putting his own buddies at risk so he can buy stuff online without exposing himself! — says the problem is that Chinese companies have come to the table late in terms of caring about information security. He notes that there are also regulatory differences between the way e-commerce in managed in China and abroad. Another big problem is just that the sheer number of Chinese net users — over 500 million now — makes any attempt at security more difficult.
Song also spoke about the need for stronger encryption and stronger passwords — if your password is six letters it does not cut it, period — to protect user data from hacking and ensure that even if some data is stolen, hackers aren’t able to view it because they aren’t able to decrypt it. Song suggests the government and police take the lead in guiding people how to be safe online, and noted the trend in real-name authentication as a possible step forward.
In any event, Song is just one man. But the fact that an internet security expert is afraid of online banking and payment systems in China might be enough to give some users pause before reaching for their online wallets on that next Taobao purchase. (We’re guessing probably not, though!)