Industry unites to tackle online safety fears

A government and industry-backed initiative is calling on businesses to spread the word and stamp out internet crime.

Organisations from both the public and private sector were today invited to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU), pledging their commitment to improve internet, and particularly web security.

The call to action by internet safety initiative Get Safe Online falls on the same day as the security awareness campaign released its second annual report, which highlighted that increasing consumer fear of online threats is having a negative impact on UK businesses.

Just under a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents said they had been deterred from online banking as a result of security concerns, while 21 per cent steer clear of managing their finances electronically for the same reason.

Worryingly, some 18 per cent of people have now decided not to shop online because they don't feel it's safe and one in six (17 per cent) have been turned off using the net full stop.

"There has been a significant change in people's online safety behaviour," Tony Neate, managing director of Get Safe Online told the audience, which included representatives from key players like Barclays, Bebo, the Cabinet Office, eBay UK, HSBC and the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA).

"But we still need to do more. We still need to spread the message and we need your help to do that."

Since Get Safe Online launched this time last year, the initiative, which is a joint effort between the government, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), BT, eBay UK, HSBC, Microsoft and Secure Trading, has done much to increase awareness of internet security issues.

It will continue in the same vein but is asking more businesses to support its work by assisting with funding or linking to its site.

Aside from supporting the aims of the initiative, educating businesses about the dangers will be a key focus for SOCA, according to Sharon Lemon, deputy director of e-crime.

Many consumers have stepped up their game in making themselves and their machines more secure, according to Lemon.

Yet they still entrust their details to multiple service providers and they, naturally, expect those companies to ensure their details are safe too.

"Last year for me was about consumers," she said.

"This year it's about businesses. You've got to get your act together. Anything that can happen in the street, including assault, can happen online.

"Extortion, for example, has moved from the Old Kent Road racket where you'd get your windows smashed in if you didn't pay 20 a week to 'We will take down your servers unless you pay us an extreme amount of money and you won't be able to conduct business.'"

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