House of Lords Press Release
Embargo: 00:01 Friday 10 August 2007
Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659


The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee have today highlighted the threat to the future of the Internet posed by e-crime, and have argued that the Government must do more to protect individual Internet users.

The Committee argue that the laissez-faire attitude taken to Internet security by a range of stakeholders including Government, Internet Service Providers, hardware and software manufacturers and others risks undermining public confidence in the Internet and contributes to a 'wild west' culture where the end user alone is responsible for ensuring they are protected from criminal attacks online.

The Internet, while still a powerful force for good, has increasingly become the playground for criminals. Today's e-criminals are highly skilled, organised, and motivated by financial gain. Individual Internet users are increasingly victimised - yet instead of acting to protect individuals, or providing incentives for the private sector to act, Government continues to insist that individuals are ultimately responsible for their own security. The Committee describe this approach as "inefficient and unrealistic".

The Lords Committee recommend a range of measures that would:

  • Increase the resources and skills available to the police and criminal justice system to catch and prosecute e-criminals

  • Establish a centralised and automated system, administered by law enforcement, for the reporting of e-crime.

  • Provide incentives to banks and other companies trading online to improve the data security by establishing a data security breach notification law.

  • Improve standards of new software and hardware by taking the first steps towards the establishment of legal liability for damage resulting from security flaws.

  • Encourage Internet service providers to improve the security offered to customers by establishing a "kite mark" for Internet services.

The Committee also recommend that the Government should review, as a matter of urgency, their decision to require online frauds to be reported to the banks rather than police in the first instance. Victims of e-crime should have acknowledgment from law enforcement bodies that a serious crime has taken place.

Lord Broers, Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, said:

"We are firm believers in the Internet. It is a huge force for good. But it relies on the confidence of millions of users. At the moment it seems that the Internet is increasingly perceived as a sort of 'wild west', outside the law. People are said to fear e-crime more than mugging. That needs to change, or else confidence in the Internet could be destroyed.

"You can't just rely on individuals to take responsibility for their own security. They will always be out-foxed by the bad guys. We feel many of the organisations profiting from Internet services now need to take their share of the responsibility. That includes the IT industry and the software vendors, the banks and Internet traders, and the Internet Service Providers.

"The state also needs to do more to protect the public, not only the government itself, but regulators like Ofcom, the police and the court system.

"You can't legislate for better Internet security. But the Government can put in place incentives for the private sector to up their game. And they can invest in better data protection and law enforcement. It's time to act now, before it's too late."

Notes to Editors

1. The report 'Personal Internet Security' is published by The Stationery Office, House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, 5th Report of 2006/07, HL Paper 165.

2. The report will be available online shortly after publication at:

3.The Member of the Science and Technology Sub-Committee who conducted the inquiry are:

Lord Broers (Chairman)
Earl of Erroll
Lord Harris of Haringey
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon
Lord Howie of Troon
Lord Mitchell
Lord O'Neil of Clackmannan
Lord Patel
Lord Paul
Baroness Sharp of Guildford
Lord Sutherland of Houndwood
Lord Young of Graffham