The Federal House of Representatives’ Standing Committee and Communications has recommended that Australians be forced to install anti-virus and firewall software on their personal computers before internet providers allow them to be connected to the internet.
The committee – one of the Parliament’s main discussion venues with relation to the communications portfolio — handed down a report yesterday into Australia’s cyber-crime situation — entitled Hackers, Fraudsters and Botnets: Tackling the Problem of Cyber Crime.
Recommendation 14 of the report sees the committee recommend that the Australian Communications and Media Authority work with industry body the Internet Industry Association to create a code of e-security practice which would be registered under the Telecommunications Act.
The code of practice, according to the report, should include a provision that ISP acceptable use policies include “contractual obligations” that internet users “install anti-virus software and firewalls before the internet connection is activated”.
In addition, users would be required to “keep e-security protection software up to date” and take reasonable steps to remediate their machines when informed by their ISPs that they were likely to have been infected by viruses or other malware.
ISPs would be required to provide basic IT security advice when user accounts were set up, and would be forced to inform users when they became aware that their PCs had been infected. If necessary, the ISPs would eventually be forced to disconnect a users’ interne connection if they refused to get rid of the malware.
“The committee does not accept that the internet is a kind of un-policed ‘wild west’ — the internet is a global communication medium which is subject to the same laws as the offline environment,” the report stated.
The committee was staffed by members from all sides of politics — including high-profile politicians such as Labor MP Belinda Neal, and former and current Shadow Communications Ministers Bruce Billson and Tony Smith. Many of the more active players in the communications portfolio — such as Greens Communications Spokesperson Scott Ludlam, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Laborite Kate Lundy – are senators and so were unable to participate in the house committee.
Not everybody who participated in the committee was in favour of the recommendation that ISP customers be forced to install firewalls and anti-virus software.
“To dramatically and quickly institute a requirement that ISPs contractually require the subscriber to install anti-virus software and firewalls before connecting to the internet, whilst well-meaning, opens up a plethora of new liability issues for subscribers,” wrote Shadow Communications Minister Tony Smith in the report.
Smith was allowed a supplementary entry to the report as he only joined the committee in February. “I do not believe that this aspect of the recommendation could be implemented without creating major uncertainty and discloation,” he added.
The report also outlined a number of other wide-ranging recommendations that it thought the Government should implement — mainly relating to developing a coordinated national approach to cyber crime.
One recommendation would see the Government establish an Office of Online Security headed by “a Cyber Security Coordinator” with expertise in cyber crime and e-security — to be located in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. This e-security czar would have responsibility of whole of government coordination of the cyber crime approach.