Home Office u-turns on cyber sanctions

The government has published its Cyber Security Strategy, warning that it will ensure those found guilty of online crimes will face “cyber sanctions” in a u-turn by the Home Office. 

Following a lot of talk coming from various corners of Whitehall recently, including warnings of cyber crime from the head of GCHQ, the government has announced a raft of strategies to deal with online ‘criminality’.

As well as preventive measures which include working closer than ever with private sector businesses, the Cabinet Office, which published the strategy, has declared that those caught indulging in illegal activities will be restricted from internet usage. 

Measures will be put in place alongside the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office, which has also been in talks with social media sites. 

According to a statement, “restrictions on access to the internet and prohibition from using instant messaging services” are to be encouraged.  New guidance will be published in the future about how to use these powers.

The official line is it will aim to stop online criminals from a range of illegal activity including the loosely defined “harassment and anti-social behaviour” once they have been found guilty of offences. 

It is also said that the Home Office will now consider the “development of a new way of enforcing these orders”.  This will involve using ‘cyber-tags’ which are triggered by an 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 goes to plan then expanding sanctions to a “wider group of offenders” will be put forward by the Home Office.

This amounts to something of a u-turn by the Home Office when TechEye questioned the department over comments made by Home Secretary Theresa May.  

Spokespeople were keen to play down any claims that offenders could be hit with social media bans, telling TechEye that they “are not getting into the territory of banning people right now”.  Clearly they’ve had an attitude transplant in the last two and a half weeks.

Another u-turn is the decision to give the public awareness campaign Get Safe Online the resources it needs to assist in preventative measures to combat cyber crime. Despite a £27 billion bill due to cyber crime, Get Safe Online’s managing director Tony Neate recently told TechEye that the organisation was lacking the funding necessary to make a real impact.

As part of the £650 million targeted to fight cyber crime, the government now wants to “bolster the role of Get Safe Online” and “increase our investment”.

The full government strategy can be viewed here.