A House of Lords committee has called on the government to take more action on the issue of online fraud and security, calling the current policy 'unrealistic'.

The Lords' Science and Technology Committee, which has been investigating online security over the last six months, referred to the government's current policy as a 'Wild West' approach.

The report was strongly critical of the government's laissez-faire attitude - they have stressed in evidence given to the Lords that responsibility lies with the individual.

According to committee chairman Lord Broers:

"We are firm believers in the internet. It is a huge force for good. But it relies on the confidence of millions of users."

"You can't just rely on individuals to take responsibility for their own security. They will always be out-foxed by the bad guys."

The Lords also criticised the IT industry for not making security a priority, and insisted that online banks and retailers have a responsibility to ensure a secure environment for online transactions.

Among the report's recommendations were:

  • The creation of a central government system for reporting of online crime.

  • More resources for the police to investigate and prosecute cyber criminals. The committee has previously heard evidence that much internet fraud is not investigated for this reason.

  • The introduction of a kite-mark to identify ISPs that provide a secure service.

  • The  government should introduce a law that would require online banks and retailers to alert authorities to any a security breaches.

Though exact figures for cyber-crime are difficult to establish, identity theft and online fraud is estimated to have cost British consumers at least £400m last year.

This is an important issue for online shoppers and retailers, as many are put off from online shopping and banking because of the risk of fraud. A report cited by the Lords committee showed that 18% of people do not shop online because of the security risks.  

Graham Charlton

Published 10 August, 2007 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (1)


Bart Patrick

Is it just me or is the recent report from the government about internet fraud going just one stage too far?

While the Lord’s committee is right to highlight the threat of organised crime and unchecked private usage of the internet, the onus of protection is perhaps a bit skewed.

The question for me is how can government or business protect individual users more when individual users seem to be happy to give their personal details to any tom, dick or harry just because they are on-line?

For the commission to say that an individual is currently responsible for their own internet security (which is ultimately true), and then imply that this should no longer be the case could set a dangerous precedent. We already see users have little or no regard for their own information once it is on the internet. Social networking is testimony to this, with internet users letting criminals get knowledge of personal details on a scale never before witnessed. How can institutions take more responsibility than they currently do when the personal owners (i.e. each individual user) of information seem to have so little regard for their own security? Statements about individuals being able to absolve themselves further from the responsibility for their own security, and heaping this responsibility onto third parties will only promote crime based on stupidity and a lack of care.

Throwing stones at government and business alike for not protecting the user is a poor solution to managing the problem of fraud. If the purpose of this report it to highlight the poor personal security of many individuals, I applaud it. If it is just to shift the blame to business, obfuscating the need for personal responsibility over your own identity and internet usage, that is something else.

almost 11 years ago

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