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Cruel new punishment for hackers: Twitter, Facebook bans

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Fraudsters and hackers could soon get slapped with social media bans as the government plans to encourage judges to dish out online punishments for online crime. The online tagging system is one of several recommendations announced today in the 2011 Cyber Security Strategy.

Intended to protect Britain and Britain's web business from the effects of cyber-crime, other plans in the report include getting spooks to warn UK consumers to update their anti-virus software on Facebook, and a focus on giving IT training to police.

Outlining the opportunities and also the dangers of the internet – particularly for UK online retail – the report advocates a programme of education and training to make everyone safer online. The government intends to leverage the cybersecurity knowledge it has in spy and intelligence central, GCHQ. It is not telling us about the other stuff it's doing as it's a secret.

Crim-slapping

Criminals who commit online crimes will be more likely to receive online sentences – as well as meatspace ones – as judges are encouraged to make use of laws that allow them to restrict or monitor the use of computers by convicted criminals outside prison. Internet fraudsters could be prevented from selling things online, the document suggests. People convicted of sexual offences, harassment or anti-social behaviour could have their internet access restricted to protect the public.

The idea will work like a cyber-version of the tags that criminals are given in the physical world. They explain:

The Ministry of Justice and the Home Office will consider and scope the development of a new way of enforcing these orders, using ‘cyber-tags’, which are triggered by the offender breaching the conditions that have been put on their internet use, and which will automatically inform the police or probation service. If the approach shows promise we will look at expanding cyber-sanctions to a wider group of offenders

Cyber-hygiene tips from the government

The document suggests that new routines of "cyber hygiene" could prevent 80 per cent of the current cyber crimes that affect businesses and the general public. And they'd like to deliver the new hygiene tips to us over social media.

"By 2015 we want a UK where [..] individuals are wary of email attachments or links from unrecognised senders," says the document. The government wants people to know that they need to update their operating systems and virus software. Specialists from GCHQ – the UK's intelligence and spy service – as well as private companies such as Microsoft and HSBC, will collaborate on the advice, which they then hope to spread to the general public via the medium of Facebook.

The report says that social media is one of the best ways to warn people about scams. One of their aims is to "help consumers respond to the cyber threats that will be the ‘new normal’ by using social media to warn people about scams or other online threats."

PC Plods get an e-makeover

And, finally, police constables will have to up their game too and get to grips with this new world of technology. Embedded "cyber-specials" will be providing training. A cross-departmental body – the new National Crime Agency (NCA) – will pool existing specialists in cybercrime and farm them out across other government departments as needed. The government plans to create a public-private cybersecurity hub leveraging the knowledge of their spooks in GCHQ for the benefit of the wider economy.

In general, the government wants to grow the number of IT security people – or the "cadre of cyber security professionals" as they like to call them – and plan to introduce a new certificate scheme to to accredit the sector and maintain standards.

Both Minister for Cyber Security Francis Maude and Prime Minister David Cameron affirmed that they were committed to the freedom of the internet and welcomed the boom it had brought to UK business. Maude said:

"The growth of the internet has revolutionised our everyday lives and promises untold economic and social opportunities in years to come. This strategy sets out how we will realise the full benefits of a networked world by building a more trusted and resilient digital environment, from protecting the public from online fraud to securing critical infrastructure against cyber attacks." ®

Read 2011's Cyber Security Strategy (PDF)

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