ISPs shunned by Web safety drive

The Get Safe Online initiative lacks teeth because BT is the only ISP involved, according to experts

The latest UK government-backed initiative to encourage secure computing has come in for criticism over a lack of ISP involvement, with experts suggesting it is hamstrung without them.

BT is the only ISP to have signed up so far for the Get Safe Online scheme which launches later this week and that has caused some to question the effectiveness of the initiative.

However, a spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) said this isn't the fault of the ISPs, claiming Get Safe Online has actually shunned any interest from the service providers so far.

The spokesman said: "We know it's silly not to have ISPs involved. But this isn't our fault."

"Two weeks ago we spoke to Get Safe Online and asked for information we could communicate to our members but we were asked not to. As a result we've not been able to publicise this to any of our members," he added.

However, according to documents seen by ZDNet UK sister site, Get Safe Online has been soliciting sponsors from other sectors since before August.

A spokesman for Telewest, which runs the blueyonder consumer ISP, said there had been no invitation from Get Safe Online to get involved with the initiative.

However, he said the company had not ruled out joining.

With only BT, with its Openworld service, signed up, the Get Safe Online initiative touches fewer than half the broadband users in the UK.

Matt Peachey, regional director at email security firm IronPort, said the joint public and private sector initiative is fatally flawed until it resolves the lack of ISP involvement.

According to Peachey, as much as 80 percent of traffic leaving an ISP network may be made up of malicious data. As such the balance of power in addressing this problem rests with the service providers, he said.

Peachey said: "There are a lot of initiatives out there to help businesses and consumers get online safely but the problem with all these initiatives is that they aren't fixing the problem at the source.

"If this doesn't have the support of the ISP community then it is toothless."

At the time of writing, Get Safe Online had failed to respond to requests for comment.