System administrators face licensing turmoil

System administrators and 'white hat' hackers may face licensing under new Bill

A Bill pushed through its final stages on Wednesday has left the way open for Britain's computer security industry to become subject to strict regulation and licensing.

The Bill subjects security consultants and system administrators to legislation designed to catch wayward security guards and doormen.

Opposition MPs recently tried to bring about an amendment that would have made information technology specialists exempt from the Private Security Industry (PSI) Bill, but these changes were rejected.

Members of the Information technology industry have criticised the legislation. Head of ebusiness for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Nigel Hickson, yesterday suggested that the Bill might conflict with European directive.

PSI Standing Committee member Charles Clarke MP has sought to clam these industry fears by promising that the Bill will not impede the IT industry. "It is our fundamental principle to ensure the Bill is targeted at those specialist providers of security services who we have indicated we want to regulate, and that we do not inadvertently catch groups that are not relevant to our policy aims," he said yesterday.

The government has also promised to consult with the Department of Trade before deciding to require security experts to obtain licensing.

However, Caspar Bowden, director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, accuses the government of failing to explain why IT consultants cannot be made exempt from the legislation and suggests that the Home Office may be looking "reshape" the computer security industry by imposing tighter controls and regulations.

"There is definitely the future threat of licensing," he said. "Assurances that the Home Office has given are not sufficient for people in IT security to breathe easily."

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