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11/27/2006
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Some Shopping Sites Crashed On Friday; Will Cyber Monday Be Any Better?

Online spending on Black Friday jumped 42% this year over the previous year, with many shoppers lured to Web shopping by promotional deals.

Shoppers seeking to avoid fighting the crowds in the malls and brick and mortar stores are running into the same problem online -- too many shoppers. The most glaring example was Walmart.com, which had to shut down its Web site entirely for a period on Black Friday.

But other sites, including Macys.com and Footlocker.com, also had to shut down for short periods while scores of other major shopping sites slowed down to a snail's pace.

"We're seeing the first big spike in online sales," said a spokesman for Internet traffic analyzer comScore Networks on Monday. He noted that online spending on Black Friday jumped 42% this year over the previous year. The firm said many shoppers were lured to Web shopping by promotional deals this year.

Online shoppers' Internet buying nearly triples during the holidays, with their online shopping experience jumping from two to six transactions a month, according to a Harris Interactive survey commissioned by security provider Check Point Software Technologies.

Online shoppers also are concerned about security threats. Harris found that shoppers still don't feel entirely safe when shopping online. "There are more hackers today," says Allison Wagda, a spokeswoman for Check Point. "They are like the petty thieves who come to the mall this time of the year."

Wagda says Check Point has tailored its latest ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite to address the new threats that are emerging during the current holiday season. While the company hasn't identified any previously unknown online viruses or threats, hackers are "blending" their scams -- using two or more types of scams.

"We haven't seen any indication yet of increased threats," she says. "But we'll see soon enough."

The Harris survey found that three in four online adult shoppers still haven't installed a hardware firewall and about one-half haven't installed a software firewall.

There is likely to be an increase in security breaches involving much-in-demand consumer products like Sony's PlayStation 3, Wagda says. The PlayStation 3, like Xbox 360s and Nintendo's Wii video game consoles, are magnets for larcenous hackers, because the products often demand a premium price online because of their great popularity.

In spite of its online shutdown Friday, Walmart rebounded with a series of promotions on Cyber Monday, ranging from deals on Hitachi Plasma HDTVs ($1,198 for a 44-inch set) to Philips 3 megapixel digital cameras for $49. A check of the Walmart site Monday morning found the site operating briskly.

In another Harris survey -- this one commissioned by Google -- 40% of employed U.S. adults said they plan to carry out some of their holiday shopping online from work. Of that number, 25% plan to make an online purchase Monday. Google Checkout, the search engine's shopping model, is offering a series of promotional attention-grabbing deals to online shoppers.

There has been a certain disconnect about the big fuss over Black Friday and Cyber Monday: Neither day is among the top five online shopping days, according to comScore Networks. The most intense shopping days tend to occur closer to Christmas. One explanation is that purchasers conducted their shopping research online before they decided to buy offline

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