New proposals to disconnect file sharers have been described as ‘ridiculous'.
Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, claimed that it was a case of users being judged as guilty.
Cluley said: “The new proposals will mean that users suspected of illegal downloading will still receive warning letters from their ISPs, but if they are believed to be continuing to share copyrighted material they will have their net connection temporarily cut off, although ‘it may be possible to retain basic access to online public services'.”
The ruling comes from an amendment to the Digital Britain report that would see regulator Ofcom given greater powers to tackle pirates.
The Guardian claimed that the government will take the unusual step of proposing much stricter rules midway through the Digital Britain consultation process, with illegal file sharers still receiving warning letters, but if they continue to swap copyrighted material they could have their internet connection temporarily severed.
The Guardian also claimed that the change follows a meeting between business secretary Lord Mandelson and film and music producer David Geffen to protect the film and music industries.
It claimed that after Mandelson met Geffen, a long-term and outspoken opponent of online piracy, he instructed officials at the Department of Business Innovation and Skills to clampdown even harder on the pirates.
A department spokesperson told the Guardian that there was no discussion of online piracy when Mandelson met Geffen and there is no connection between that meeting and the government's new proposals on illegal file sharing.
Cluley said: “What's interesting is that this proposal was rejected by the British government's own Digital Britain report earlier this year as a step too far. So what can have possibly changed the government's resolve?
“My feeling is that if penalties like this are put into law, it is likely to cause major headaches for ISPs and WiFi users alike. For instance, customers who are about to be cut off from the net could claim that other people have been illegally piggybacking on their internet connection.”
He also questioned what the ruling would be if the alleged illegal downloads were made by staff in the workplace? Will the entire company be disconnected from the net? That could be harmful to the very businesses that Lord Mandelson is tasked with protecting.
“While there's no 100 per cent solution to piracy, following simple advice like this can help innocent users protect themselves both from this risk, and that of hackers eavesdropping on communications and stealing information that can be used for identity theft,” said Cluley. "This has been one of the most difficult issues to navigate, and we're not at the end of the process yet (the consultation is still open and has been extended). We'll undoubtedly see more debate as we put the Bill through Parliament. In the mean time, we're happy to hear reactions."
In response, the Digital Britain forum said: "In essence this is a strengthening of the same procedures for letter-writing and warning of those who seem to be illicitly sharing files, but with the tougher ultimate penalty of suspension of service and retaining the ability for ministers to decide when ‘technical measures' (ie enforcement through the broadband service of the offender) can be introduced.
"The overall objective of providing a legitimate framework for dissemination of content in a way consumers want and at the right price remains firmly in place.
"This has been one of the most difficult issues to navigate, and we're not at the end of the process yet (the consultation is still open and has been extended). We'll undoubtedly see more debate as we put the Bill through Parliament. In the mean time, we're happy to hear reactions."