Microsoft's chief strategy officer has suggested that people should undergo mandatory training before being allowed online.
Craig Mundie, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, proposed a three-tier system of authentication for people, devices and applications.
Mundie acknowledged that this would mean some loss of anonymity, but said that people are used to having to present identification in other areas of life and that the internet should be no different.
"If you want to drive a car you have to have a licence to say that you are capable of driving a car, the car has to pass a test to say it is fit to drive and you have to have insurance," he said.
"People don't understand the scale of criminal activity on the internet. Whether criminal, individual or nation states, the community is growing more sophisticated."
Mundie explained that it is perfectly reasonable to have anonymity when simply walking down the street, but that if a citizen enters a bank to access funds they will need an ID.
Hamadoun Touré, secretary general of the International Telecommunications Union, used the meeting to suggest that nations should sign up to a cyber war treaty guaranteeing that they would not launch an online "first strike".
"A cyber war would be worse than a tsunami - a catastrophe," he said, adding that the attacks on Estonia in 2007 were just the beginning.
Countries should also guarantee not to harbour cyber terrorists, said Touré, and to offer freedom of information to citizens.
A McAfee spokesman at the event warned that China, the US, Russia, Israel and France are among 20 countries currently gearing up to take warfare online, and that the world is facing an electronic arms race.
US senator Susan Collins, meanwhile, said in a blog post: "A former US director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, asked me about the possibility of the Senate passing an international treaty on cyber security, if one were to be drafted, or absent that, a cyber security bill for the US.
"Our Homeland Security Committee is working on such legislation, but there are many obstacles to overcome."
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