JUST WHEN YOU thought it was safe to dip your toe in the virtual waters of Web commerce, hackers have penetrated the security firewalls of two major US trading sites - ESPN Sportszone and NBA.com. Hundreds of users of the two sites recently received anonymous e-mail gleefully informing them that they had fallen victim to ‘a careless abuse of privacy and security’ and, to prove it, citing the last eight digits of the credit card number given during their initial online sign-up. Starwave Corporation, which operates customer services on both sites, admitted to the New York Times that there was a security problem, 2,397 consumer files having been ‘potentially exposed’ and that it was taking steps to correct the problem. A one-off glitch, no big deal, you might think? Not so, according to Matt Kinsman, editor of the US Electronic Advertising & Marketing Report: ‘The industry had reached a point where security is an issue only in the consumer’s mind and not in everyday application, and electronic retailers are beginning to coax customers to make online purchases on a regular basis. The Starwave mishap reinforces consumer doubts about the safety of electronic commerce.’