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'Project Endurance' tries to tackle online crime

Lloyds TSB, Microsoft and eBay have teamed up with the CBI and the Government to launch a consumer education campaign on Internet security

A group of IT vendors and other interested parties have come together to try and change attitudes to Internet security.

Project Endurance will be launched at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) Conference in Birmingham by Mike O'Brien MP, minister of state for energy and e-Commerce, and Digby Jones, director general of the CBI. It will target Internet users through a marketing campaign that will kick off in the spring of 2005, that will include a dedicated Web site.

The Project Endurance Steering Group includes the DTI, Home Office, National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), the Central Sponsor for Information Assurance, the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC), the CBI and the Association of Payment Clearing Services.

Its initial sponsors are Microsoft, Lloyds TSB, and eBay, who have each put in £150,000. The project hopes to raise £2m from its sponsors in the first year.

"If the project gets off the ground we hope it will create much greater awareness among employers, microbusinesses and consumers, said Jeremy Beale, head of the e-business group at the CBI.

The consortium hopes that the initiative will focus current security campaigns which are currently happening in a piece-meal fashion.

"The existing situation is there are lots of efforts going on for example, many banks publish notices on their Web sites - but there hasn't been a critical mass of effort to make people really change their behaviour," said Beale.

Exact details of how much funding the group will have to reach the hearts and minds of the UK's online consumers were not immediately available.

"Funding is mainly coming from the tier one sponsors like Lloyds TSB, Microsoft and eBay, who are putting up the main funding. There will also be some tier two sponsors, such as trade associations," he said.

The private sector, which probably has most to gain from lower rates of online fraud, is putting up the lion's share of the money, according to Beale.

"It's a private sector lead initiative. The government is also putting up some money -- but it's not fifty-fifty; the government is joining as one tier two sponsor," said Beale.

According to a report in the Financial Times, Mick Deats, head of the NHTCU, compared the group's ambition to other successful public education attempts, such as drink driving and the campaign to get people to wear seatbelts. However, those campaigns had very simple messages, while Internet security involves a range of issues.

"Some of it is straightforward: Don't click on an attachment from an email from someone that you don't know. Some of it is about knowing what technologies are secure, and some of it is about learning best practices," said Beale.