The IT industry has formed an alliance to tackle hackers, viruses and product vulnerabilities.
The Security Alliance for Internet and New Technologies (Saint) is backed by the Department of Trade and Industry and supplier group the Computer Software and Services Association (CSSA).
The alliance aims to share information on vulnerabilities and new attacks by hackers, and come up with fixes.
Saint will cost around £600,000 a year to run, and will be funded by the industry along with founder members, each of which will make a £5000 contribution.
The first operational meeting is planned for February next year, and Saint could be up and running as a not-for-profit organisation by the end of 2002.
Tim Conway, policy director at the CSSA, said: "Our objective is to build a secure and trusted environment where the IT industry can work together and talk about security issues and vulnerabilities.
"Whereas individual companies are all doing this they are doing it in stovepipes and there's not a good mechanism for companies to discuss things like how applications work together.
"We want to create an environment where we can discuss these things and remedy them, and make sure that the user community is able to implement these fixes."
Legislation on IT security has not been threatened by the government, but the industry is keen to take a lead in this area, added Conway. "The government has not talked about regulation but things can change and it's important that the industry has its own house in order," he explained.
Members will be legally obliged to keep secret the vulnerabilities of other members' systems to encourage trust. Evidence of such vulnerabilities could be given anonymously, Conway said. Government agencies will also be allowed to participate.
As well as sharing information, Saint will also publish warnings and develop best practices for security. It may also have its own staff of analysts to validate security breaches reported to it, although this may be outsourced.
At the launch of Saint, ecommerce minister Douglas Alexander said: "Improving internet security and effective tackling of viruses is key to ensuring that the UK can keep at the forefront of ecommerce.
"It is important that the industry can work together to collectively tackle these important issues enabling the knowledge economy in the UK to continue to grow and prosper."
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