The internet can be a confusing place and that provides opportunity for criminals and criminal behaviour. High profile cases of criminal behaviour tend to be those that involve large sums of money or threaten national security. There are however dangers for everyday users of the internet that are often lower down the priority agenda for regulators, legislators and the police.
The Government has been working to address the issue of cyber crime and published its Cyber Security Strategy at the end of last year, while we were taking evidence on this inquiry. We welcome the broad sweep of the strategy but it remains, in essence, focussed at too high a level to address the key concerns of everyday internet users.
The overwhelming message from those who gave evidence to us was that there is a need for computer users to be better informed. Those using the internet need to be aware of the potential risk and have a trusted source of authoritative advice and up to date information about malware and internet scams. Too often advice and information for the internet are too technical or difficult for most computer users to properly understand and effectively act upon. There is also the problem that there are so many messages from a variety of sources that it is easy to become overwhelmed and difficult to know who to trust.
The Government already sponsors the Get Safe Online website but we believe this site is in need of substantial investment and improvement. Get Safe Online needs a much higher profile among UK computer users and the Government is central in that awareness raising, through integrating the site with relevant official organisations and governmental bodies and providing a one-stop shop for victims of cyber crime to report that crime and get authoritative information on how to remedy their situation.
One key element that the Government can address is that of providing a way for consumers to recognise those computer programmes that enhance rather than undermine online security. We have recommended that the Government seek to develop a kite mark, or similar solution, that software publishers can be awarded if they prove their product meets security standards. However, we recognise such schemes can militate against smaller companies and ask the Government to investigate how it might remove some of the financial disincentives for smaller companies wanting to promote the security of their products.
We believe that the Government has a duty to protect the people of the United Kingdom from crime regardless of whether that crime takes place on the streets or on the internet. We consider that victims of crime should expect to be able to take those crimes to their local police and to be given good advice on useful steps to recover from the impact of that crime. Towards that end we recommend that the Government take steps to improve general knowledge about cybercrime among all policemen in the UK as well as focussing on the specialist units as outlined in the Cyber Security Strategy.