UK moves closer to licensing security consultants

A refusal to accept crucial amendments to the Private Security Industry Bill means that security consultants may need a government licence to work here

Computer consultants may end up needing a permit to work, after the government this week refused to amend a new bill that extends to information technology.

The Private Security Industry (PSI) Bill Standing Committee this week voted against proposed amendments that would have made information security experts exempt from the scope of the legislation.

The Bill is designed to clampdown on rogue security guards and bouncers but computer security experts also fall under its control.

According to committee member Charles Clarke MP, computer security consultants Have nothing to fear from the legislation. He said during committee proceedings: "the information security consultancy industry is not under threat of licensing at a future date under the Bill." However, Clarke went on to hint that some sort of industry regulation may be required. "The Government believe that issues need to be explored with regard to confidence in the information security consultancy industry," he stated.

Caspar Bowden, director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR), a government think-tank, says that the decision leaves the position of information technology experts unclear. "The Minister says the industry is not under threat of licensing," says Bowden in an email message. "But in the same breath says activities which are routine for many types of IT personnel are caught by the Bill, and unspecified 'further action' may be required. If there is no threat, why not amend the Bill?"

Head of ebusiness for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Nigel Hickson, added his voice to criticism, this week calling for the government to make information technology consultants exempt from the Bill.

The move also has some computer security consultants worried that they could soon be subjected to a rigorous licensing process. "It's scary," says Ian Brown, a computer security researcher at University College London and a commercial consultant with Hidden Footprints. Brown says that through the Bill the government could impose impossibly high standards on computer security experts. "They have said that they won't even think about it for a while, but that's no assurance," he says.

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