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A major UK government campaign to help small businesses and consumers protect themselves from Internet security threats will launch in the UK next year.

The National High-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) is co-ordinating the £2m three-year security awareness campaign, codenamed Project Endurance, and it is seeking business sponsorship. So it is off to rattle the tin at a Confederation of British Industry conference on 8 November. Public launch is scheduled for the second quarter of 2005.

John Lyons, crime co-ordinator at the NHTCU, said the campaign will aim to arrest the growth in computer security risks that threatens to slow down the rise of ecommerce. "The aim is to reduce fraud losses and to consolidate information, which is currently fragmented," he said.

Project Endurance will focus on the basics of Internet security. Subjects covered will include advising users to maintain up-to-date anti-virus signatures, patch operating systems and use firewalls. Protecting personal information, password usage and protection and counter-fraud measures will also be covered. The campaign will aim to educate users about spyware and adware risks. Another planned element will emphasise the importance of backing up systems.

Lyons compares Project Endurance to government campaigns against drink driving, or the "clunk, click" campaign advising users to use safety belts in cars. Early ideas for the scheme were outlined last week at the Information Assurance Advisory Council's fifth annual symposium in London.

Andrew Miller MP, Joint vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee, backed Project Endurance's wide-ranging approach. "Spam, virus and extortion are intellectually separate but are all tied together. You can't pick out one part of the [cybercrime] spectrum because they are all interlinked," he said.

Paul King, principal security consultant at Cisco Systems UK, said the UK scheme is similar in aims to the US National Cyber Security Alliance's StaySafeOnline scheme.

Peter Sommer, a security expert from the London School of Economics, asked how the scheme would avoid to risk of overlap with the "proliferation of initiatives" around computer security already underway. Lyons said the programme would concentrate on basic IT security and focus on the UK. The scheme will not look at child protection issues, which are well-covered by other programmes, he added. ®

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