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.