German Internet Security One Click Away from a Cop

The Autobahn has SOS phones for motorists in need. Now, police want to launch a similar service for the German Internet. Soon, those who stumble across dubious Web content may be just a click away from the authorities.

It's like an online version of Neighborhood Watch, those neighborhood crime protection associations. The German Union of Criminal Investigators (BDK) has presented the German federal government with a plan for increased security online. "We laid a conclusive and well-engineered security concept on Family Affairs Minister Ursula von der Leyen's table," Klaus Jansen, head of the BDK, told the newspaper Neuen Osnabrücker Zeitung. The "Web patrol" plan envisions online "emergency telephones" and an accompanying informational campaign, the paper reported.

Jansen was set to publicly introduce the security scheme at the German Congress on Crime Prevention's Annual International Forum in Hannover on Tuesday. "Given the dramatically increasing amount of crime on the Internet, the plan needs to be implemented before the national elections," he said.

The BDK's proposal would allow law-abiding citizens to install software on their computers that they will be able to download from data protection authorities or the Ministry for Family Affairs. After installation, a virtual "emergency telephone" will be at the ready on the computer.

Frozen Evidence

Anyone who activates the system would be directed to an online emergency call center, where "police officers, sociologists, or psychologists will sit around the clock, reacting immediately to the respective cases." Those who stumble upon child pornography, right-wing extremism, or hints of an impending school shooting, would be able to take a screenshot using the software and forward this directly to an alarm center. "Information in real time: it's faster and easier than calling 110," Jansen said, referring to Germany's emergency telephone number.

Supporters of the emergency call center would be a foundation made up of data and youth protection agents as well as Internet and security experts, the BDK said. The plan calls for funding to come from the state and major Internet service providers.

Problems in the Ranks

The online security system would be accompanied by an public awareness campaign called "The 8th Sense on the Net" -- an allusion to a 1970s-era TV series promoting driving safety called "The 7th Sense" -- would be easy to accomplish, according to Jansen. The BDK wants to unite existing governmental and private sources who monitor risks like data theft and computer hacking and create an online pool of information.

"Every age group from children to pensioners could receive information and help catered to them," Jansen explained. "If the state doesn't want to leave the Internet to criminals, then informing citizens is the first priority."

But a serious problem for the implantation of the plan is the lack of Internet expertise among the officers themselves. "At the most, 1 percent of police officers are currently fit for the Internet," Jansen said. Far too few to create a "BDK 2.0."

jcm -- with wire reports
Die Wiedergabe wurde unterbrochen.