Qasco tightens portal security

QATAR Steel Company (Qasco) has delayed work on a planned internet portal to link customers and suppliers in to its own systems to ensure that security concerns are met.

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By  Diana Milne Published  February 12, 2006

QATAR Steel Company (Qasco) has delayed work on a planned internet portal to link customers and suppliers in to its own systems to ensure that security concerns are met. While the firm had originally planned to start the project at the end of last year, that start date has now been pushed back to March to allow the steel giant to implement an updated version of the Oracle E-Business suite. Already using Oracle software, Qasco has just completed the implementation of the full E-Business software suite. Malek Hamdieh, IT manager at Qasco, said the firm had been concerned that the software it was previously running may have potentially allowed hackers to create cookies to capture user names and password data. He explained that given the nature of the new portal, in whi- ch users outside the organisation would have access to sensitive company information, security was a particular concern. “We are opening services to the outside world over the net so security becomes a major factor here,” Hamdieh said. However, he emphasised that Qasco had not actually faced any security problems with the Oracle software, only that it felt the upgraded version gave it tighter security controls. He explained that the company had delayed starting work on the portal so that it could upgrade its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. But he added that improvements it had made to its own IT security infrastructure meant it would have been in a secure enough position anyway to host the portal based on the previous version of E-Business Suite. “I believe we would have been able to use it (the older version) because we revised our security infrastructure but the new version added to and improved security,” he said. “I would say that every new release is usually more secure than the previous one but security has never been a serious issue for E-Business suite,” said Ayman Abouseif, Oracle’s managing director for the Gulf States. The new Qasco portal — which will take around four months to create — will be accessed by Qasco customers and suppliers using a login name and password from a link on the company’s website. This will link them to an external portal that gathers information from the ERP system on the network. It will allow customers to make and track orders and suppliers to view tenders for bids and submit invoices. Suppliers will access information through the same portal, and also by using a login name and password, but will be directed to different pages containing information that is relevant to them. “When they log in over the internet they will be able to get access to procurement documentation, see the tenders they are invited to bid for, and even submit their own proposals to the site,” said Hamdieh. When IT Weekly interviewed Hamdieh last year he said that this type of portal, although not uncommon in Europe, would be fairly unique to the region (see IT Weekly 5- 11 February 2005). Analysts from Dubai-based research firm Experton Group supported this view. “The more mature the supply chain gets the more of those networks and inter-enterprise integration projects you will see,” said Luis Praxmarer, CEO of Experton Group. “Web services and the internet in general have increased the speed of connecting suppliers and customers and creating networks,” he added. “Projects with these objectives are pretty rare in this area,” agreed Don Blair, resident senior analyst at the Experton Group. Qasco plans to expand to four- times its current size and the new portal will enable it to better serve its growing customer base and network of suppliers. “The customer base is increasing and we have suppliers from all over the world,” said Hamdieh. “This is part of our drive to streamline our business process and to make them or more effective and efficient. Eventually too we hope to reduce the operating costs of the organisation,” he added.

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