(Via Gareth Parker)
An IT expert writes (in Crikey’s subscriber email):
There is a good chance that Labor will give the Howard Government a hard time over its failure to make e-commerce safe through adequate regulation of ISPs. The Minister for Telecommunications Darryl Williams is the likely target.
The trigger is the large numbers of “Mums and Dads” getting hacked or hit with virii then having Internet Banking accounts pilfered.
The cause is that ISPs will not implement effective protection measures on their networks and email servers that account for “Murphy’s Law” and acknowledge that the average user is clueless and will/can not protect themselves.
The Federal government knows about the root cause but will not regulate to protect the public. If Labor drop this ball (as the government have) then that is a story in itself.
What does the “IT expert” suggest? That the Federal government offer a Norton rebate?
I suppose a purist libertarian response would require an assertion that it’s up to each individual adult to decide whether and to what extent they protect themelves against hackers, viruses, spyware and the like. Some would assert that any regulation of this area is “nanny-state” interference (although many of them would be named Gates). But many if not most consumers have little or no idea of the risks or what protective measures they should take against them. Most adults over about 25 (and quite a few younger ones as well) are still technological luddites.
Moreover, surely we’re all entitled to expect that when we buy an Internet-enabled PC, it will be fit and reasonably safe to be used for that purpose. People who buy cars expect them to be safe too, and the past failures of many car manufacturers to voluntarily fit things like seat belts and airbags caused regulators quite properly to insist on them. Why should PCs be any different?
As most of us more ‘geeky’ bloggers know, it isn’t safe to use the Internet (especially with a broadband connection) without up-to-date anti-virus software, at least a software firewall, and (at least if you have a teenage child) up-to-date anti-spyware software. I reckon there’s a very strong case for the federal government to regulate to require that all new PCs must be sold with a firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software already installed and with 2 years of automatic updates. PC packaging should also be required to have the following warnings prominently displayed:
- Never open email attachments unless you’re absolutely certain they come from a trusted source (and if you’re not sure, ring the apparent sender to make sure the email really is from them;
- Never install third party software, plug-ins or other gadgets unless you’re sure they’re from a reputable source;
- If your PC is ever used by a child or teenager, then don’t under any circumstances use it for Internet banking, because you can almost guarantee that your child will completely ignore the above instructions whenever they feel like it (however many times you might yell at them for doing it).