As the world wide web celebrates its 20th birthday, claims have been made that the integrity of the internet is at stake.

 

Inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee has claimed that without proper care being taken over the privacy of individual's information online, the UK could be at risk from organisations who could gain access to records showing internet users' browsing habits.

 

Berners-Lee warned against the collection of users' data by commercial organisations and said that third parties, including companies and governments, should not be allowed to snoop on the public's browsing of the internet.

 

He said: “We use the internet without a thought that a third party would know what we have clicked on. But the URLs/people use reveal a huge amount about their lives, loves, hates and fears. This is extremely sensitive information.

 

“People use the web in a crisis, when wondering whether they have a sexually transmitted disease, or cancer, when wondering if they are homosexual and whether to talk about it. This information is very sensitive. I feel it should not be collected.”

 

Trials have taken place with software that monitors the internet use of around 30,000 people to send adverts tailored to the users' search interests. A behaviour-targeted advertising system created by Phorm is being considered by Virgin Media and TalkTalk, which delivers targeted adverts to consumers based on their web searches and the sort of sites they visit.

 

Commenting on how levels of cybercrime have changed in recent years, Martin Mackay, vice president EMEA of VeriSign, said: “Online security has developed and changed dramatically. In the early days of the web, hackers were typically teenagers motivated by little more than bragging rights. Today, the profit motive has turned cybercrime into a profession.

 

“For 2009, businesses will see far more insidious and complex forms of attack. Phishing, malware, social engineering, blended threats and digital hijacking are at the top of our watch list. Just like crime in the non-digital world, cybercrime will likely never be eradicated completely. But there are ways businesses can protect themselves, their customers and employees. A layered security approach is the best defence against fraud on the web - now and in years to come.”