Government urged to tackle root causes of internet crime

Internet management specialists have called on the government to take more action to tackle the root causes of internet crime. The new demands come in the wake of last week's House of Lord's inquiry into Personal Internet Security which was critical of the government inaction on the problem.

The report said the internet was "the playground of criminals" and that the government's lack of protective action is inefficient, unrealistic and smacks of "the Wild West."

Scottish-based web hosting and management services company Iomart is one of many organisations which is critical of the report, saying that extra policing of the internet is only part of the answer.

Phil Worms, director of Iomart told OUT-LAW.COM: “We already punch well above our weight in internet management and security as we have a well-developed and relatively mature internet research and management sector already in existence. But while the government is well placed to take a lead in promoting internet security, I feel the Lords’ report does not go far enough to define and tackle the root causes of the problem.

“The vast majority of home internet users seriously underestimate the threat posed by poor online security, and are not aware of the cheap and easy solutions which could protect them.

"Both the government and all businesses which trade online have a responsibility for better educating the public to protect the integrity of online trading as a valid and growing business medium.”

Worms welcomed several recommendations from the House of Lords’ report, including increased resources for law enforcement agencies to tackle online crime. He also argues that it is a good thing that victims of online crime will be encouraged to report problems to the police in the first instance, rather than big business which he says is too tolerant of internet fraud and has not done enough to help customers protect themselves.

“The biggest assets to internet crime thus far have been ignorance and apathy, with the vast majority of consumers not availing themselves of simple protection tools which already exist; some of which are free.

"The government has a key role to play in educating the public to take greater personal responsibility for internet security but banks and other service providers could play their part by giving incentives to customers who can prove they have installed relevant security software on home computers. This could be highly cost effective through helping to tackle crime at grass roots level.

"We should be making a concerted effort to harness the power of the local community – parents, children, teachers, local IT specialists and local law enforcement bodies – in an attempt to combat internet crime, not simply seek to introduce unworkable legislation in the vain hope that this will solve the issue”.

Worms added: “I welcome the House of Lords’ report as it draws attention to a growing problem but strengthening the integrity of the internet as a trading medium is of crucial importance to business and extra policing is only part of the answer.

“Helping all users to understand how they can protect themselves cheaply and easily through existing technology would greatly reduce exposure to online crime and this is where resources should be targeted. “

Meanwhile the Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA UK) – the UK’s leading internet trade association – agrees that combating online personal security threats requires effective partnership between service providers, end-users, law enforcement and government agencies.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said: "Stringent action against online criminals is fundamental." The organisation said that the UK internet industry has an excellent track record of making the internet safer through self-regulation – with many ISPs already offering easy-to-use tools like parental controls and spam filters to help their users protect themselves online.

"Rather than making changes to the existing legal framework, ISPA is inviting the government to support service providers in promoting awareness of the importance of internet security, of known security risks, and of how users can manage them," added the spokeswoman.

“Personal internet security must be a joint effort between the Internet industry, the Government and its agencies and importantly end-users. ISPA acknowledges that ISPs have a key role to play. A concerted effort to raise awareness of known risks and effectively enforce existing laws is also critical.”