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'Wild West' net needs 'Government action'

The House of Lords report says it isn't realistic for consumers to be completely responsible for their own security

Despite calling the internet "a powerful force for good," a House of Lords report has called for more government action on cyber criminals.

The report tells us a lot of stuff we already know: "A return to a world without the internet is now hardly conceivable". And: "The internet is now increasingly the playground of criminals". It highlights the "bad guys" as "organised crime groups [that] are highly skilful, specialised, and focused on profit," and compares the net to the Wild West.

The report also makes it clear that "the risk to public confidence is clear" from lack of response to e-crime. It calls for the government to take action, saying the method of leaving protection up to the individual is "inefficient and unrealistic".

"The threat to the internet is clear, but it is still manageable. Now is the time to act, both domestically, and internationally, through the European Union and through international organisations and partnerships," it says.

The report is huge - part one, of two, is 121 pages - but the conclusions couldn't be clearer. "Our recommendations urge the government, through a flexible mix of incentives, regulation, and direct investment, to galvanise the key stakeholders."

e-crime reporting system

The report also recommends a review of the current system of online fraud reporting. At the moment, fraud has to be reported directly to banks. The report suggests the introduction of legislation to hold banks liable for losses as a result of online fraud.

"We welcome many of the recommendations of the report and believe the introduction of a UK disclosure law would be a very positive step forward," says Greg Day, a security analyst for McAfee.

"[In the] short term consumers may see an increase in breaches as full disclosure takes effect. It would be important to educate them that this is not a sign of things getting worse, but more visibility of what is and has already been happening behind closed doors."

Security breeches

Among the report's other recommendations is the introduction of a central web-based e-crime reporting system and the potential for IT security vendors to be held liable for security breeches.

Understandably, Day isn't so keen on this. "It would be very difficult to hold vendors responsible for breaches, as it really comes down to how solutions are implemented. You would have to ask, 'Did they have it configured correctly, updated and maintained?'"

The Home Office told the BBC that the government was examining the report and would come back with a response.