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UK gov computer misuse is 'rife'

Lib Dems call for tough sanctions

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The Liberal Democrats claim computer misuse among Government department is "rife" resulting in "serious security" concerns.

The worst department is the Inland Revenue, which was forced to investigate 1,369 cases of computer misuse between 1997 and 2003.

According to official figures, 1,174 of those resulted in disciplinary action.

HM Customs & Excise investigated 328 cases of computer misuse with 147 resulting in disciplinary action.

Other departments that appeared to have a problem include the Department for Work and Pensions and the Northern Ireland Office, which handles many secure and sensitive documents.

Between 1998 and 2003, the Department for Work and Pensions has recorded 23 cases of manipulation of computer systems where people have fiddled with personal records.

While the Northern Ireland Office has recorded 430 cases of staff viewing "inappropriate or offensive material" in the last seven years.

Said Steve Webb MP, Lib Dem shadow work and pensions secretary: "It is shocking that computer misuse is rife in so many Government departments. The idea of Government employees snooping through people's private records is one that will cause alarm.

"Apart from the moral and ethical issues of computer misuse, these figures show serious security and cost problems. By accessing all sorts of inappropriate websites, some civil servants risk infecting their computers with viruses which costs taxpayers' money to fix and leaves computers vulnerable to security breaches."

Webb is calling for a clear policy on computer misuse within Government departments and stiffer penalties for civil servants who step out of line. ®

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