"You can't just rely on individuals

  Forum Editor 08:25 12 Aug 2007

to take responsibility for their own security. They will always be out-foxed by the bad guys."

So says Lord Broers, chairman of the committee that published the Personal Internet Security report.

click here

What do you think - are internet users always being outfoxed, or is a combination of common sense and internet security software keeping the bad guys at bay?

I think that Lord Broers is probably right, most of the people who are connected to the internet are not members of forums like this, and at best have a fairly basic understanding of the dangers lurking out there. It's not their fault - nobody tells them how to take precautions to protect their machines. Should the government do more, and if so, what?

  WhiteTruckMan 09:40 12 Aug 2007

to operate their machine in a safe manner. When I used to deal with customers on a software support line at a very expensive premium rate I often encountered grumbles, to which I would respond with the analogy that you do not get free driving lessons when you purchase a new car, so why should you get free -personal-instruction with a new computer?

I think there should be more information made available to users on the dangers of internet useage. Whether that should be in the form of government information film type releases paid for by taxation (eg. drink driving, or non smoking etc), more detailed instruction from the computer manufacturers or an advertising campaign from the software vendors is another matter.

A government policy of more rigourous pursuit and punishment of those perpetrators of online crime might also help. And in this case I would like government policy to actually mean DOING something instead of just using lots of feely happy words.

But ultimately I believe it IS up to the induhvidual to operate and maintain their machine in a safe manner. And maybe even prosecute them if a third party suffers financial loss because of their negligence. Just like a car. And if it is a result of a hole in the OS being breached then maybe the OS vendor could be jointly liable as well.


  laurie53 09:55 12 Aug 2007

You might as well say that there should be more information on the dangers of mountain climbing made available to buyers of crampons and ice axes.

If you are going into an area you know nothing about you should look into it first, whether it be computing or cooking.

  Diemmess 09:56 12 Aug 2007

Every opportunity brings new choices.
Rights have responsibilities as well.

Government intervention of a restrictive kind will not help. In no time at all it would prove ineffective, costly and self defeating.

As things are, it must confuse anyone new to the Internet faced with tales of viruses phishing and fraud. If the confusion leads to a press-on-regardless attitude it would at least be a pity.

Where Banks, Retailers and Government should help is by giving constant publicity to the problems with outline help and advice as part of the "wrapping" of the package they offer.
A bit like health warnings on tobacco products.

  anskyber 10:01 12 Aug 2007

I think that is too simplistic. The question has been put to us in a sort of either or manner which is great for debate but not necessarily for illumination.

Yes, the individual has a responsibility to act in a responsible and secure manner if for no other reason than to help protect those who do try to take the best precautions. Education will help even simple labelling on products could serve to alert people. After that, rather like the smoking kills labels the individual can make a decision.

To reduce the issue to individual choice is however missing the key message in the report, we are talking about serious crime here. The answer to me is a blend of responsibilities from the consumer through ISPs the manufacturers of hardware and software and the enforcement even of current legislation.

The internet is young, a bit wild west if you like, and it is truely global, single countries acting alone will only be able to do so much. It will need wider coordination, the trick will be to have the best controls with the minimum of intervention.

  Wilham 10:08 12 Aug 2007

As a starter it's not asking governments very much to put pressure on ISP's to reduce anti-social behavior from their clients.

I try to take steps to guard my interests, but why should I be asked to confirm bank details of accounts I don't have? Why should my email address be a dumping ground for all and sundry?

About two years ago it became an offence to make unsolicited calls by telephone, default penalty £400. It has worked well for me and something like it would be fine on email.

This is one aspect of FE's thread, but I'm very much in favour of Lord Broers.

  WhiteTruckMan 10:16 12 Aug 2007

The key message that I percieved in that article was if the focus should be on the individual to secure their own machine. Please note that thats my perception of the article.

I'm curious as to know what part of my first post did you find simplistic?


  Forum Editor 10:22 12 Aug 2007

I suggested (in a forum thread) that it should be compulsory for all computer manufacturers to stick a red notice on monitor screens, warning of the need to install and update anti-virus software.

That might have been a little simplistic, and in any case, things have moved on somewhat since then, but I believe the principle holds good - computer buyers often have little or no idea about internet security. The first warning many new computer users have of trouble is when their machine suddenly starts behaving oddly, or when they find that their browser's home page has been changed to some other site, often an adult content one.

I'm not in favour of government involvement in the running of the internet, other than by prosecuting criminals to the limit of the law when they're caught. The problem of course is that it's just too easy for online criminals to avoid capture by operating from some location that's outside our area of jurisdiction. I was once involved in helping a Hong Kong based bank detect and capture some people who were trying to steal account details from a secure website. We traced the individuals to a server located somewhere in Indonesia, but that's as far as it went - we couldn't persuade the authorities there to do anything about it.

It's discouraging for our police computer crime experts who spend many hours tracking down online criminals, only to find that they might not always get the cooperation they need from foreign police services.

In the end it must be down to us, as computer users, to watch our own backs and protect our machines as much as possible. Updating operating systems can be a major help in this respect, but I'm constantly astonished by the numbers of people who never bother to do this - they sail along with an unpatched system, sometimes for years, and then wonder why all of a sudden they get a major problem. The answer lies in education, and here I think the computer industry can play a major role. Every new machine should come with an explanatory leaflet - paid for partly by the industry and partly by the government - outlining the dangers that exist, and the steps that can be taken to combat them. Between them, suppliers and consumers could go a long way towards reducing the number of security breaches that occur.

  anskyber 10:42 12 Aug 2007

It is the emphasis on the idea that if individuals take precautions then, from my reading of your post suggests it should be good enough.

"But ultimately I believe it IS up to the individual to operate and maintain their machine in a safe manner." Seems to summarise your position?

I agree the front line of defence should be the individual and probably a significant part of the answer rests with the individual.

However, like society itself the individual cannot deal with everything, it's why we choose to live in societies. No amount of updating software, anti virus solutions or whatever will protect from the range of problems we now face. It would not prevent problems from weak servers or bank protection. The HOL report recognises the point, it calls for a blend of responsibilities.

Some early adopters of the internet saw it as a facility which could transcend normal restrictions and be truly free. Life has never been like that and to a degree I see some people being in denial about the internet and how it functions. More and more people are using the internet as the main means of doing things, once something becomes central to the functioning of society regulation inevitability follows. I am not promoting the idea, I do not like it any more than you do.

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 12:31 12 Aug 2007

I Also believe it is up to the individual to operate and maintain their machine in a safe manner.

However to do this the individual is going to need the help and support of experts in the field.

All the individual has to do is ask.

Antivirus and antispyware can be purchased or obtained freely.

Machines not running protection software are a danger to all, a they can be hijacked and used to spread malicious software.

Perhaps there is need to put a "Health Warning" on all PCs

"Use of this machine can damage your bank balance unless antivirus / antispyware is kept updated"


  DrScott 12:48 12 Aug 2007

is that computers are firstly seen as a must in this day and age. Secondly they are not that intuitive to use when compared with virtually any other piece of domestic electronics. Thirdly, they in effect have a dynamic user manual, which changes on a daily basis. The rules for safe computer use are constantly requiring an update.

For those not brought up with computers, understanding them and the risks associated is actually quite difficult, and that's even before an internet connection is made.

I think a concerted effort by the computer industry and government to educate people about safe computer use is a definite requirement, and I think there is certainly a case for an information leaflet being supplied with every new PC. In that I'm in total agreement with our esteemed FE.

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