A Saintly group that aims to outwit the cyber-criminal

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The Independent Online

The Government is backing plans to create the UK's first "hacking exchange", which will allow IT companies to share information on sensitive security breaches and cybercrime. The Computing Software and Services Association (CSSA) and the Alliance for Electronic Business (AEB), the UK's two largest bodies representing technology companies, are fronting the initiative and hope to set up the exchange early next year.

Computer crime, including hacking, virus attacks and credit card fraud, has rapidly become one of the biggest threats to business.

The Confederation of British Industry revealed that two-thirds of businesses that responded to a survey had been victims of a serious cyber-crime incident in the past year. The main cyber threat came from external hackers and organised crime, said the report.

The proposed hacking exchange, to be called UK-Saint, is backed by the Department of Trade & Industry and the Office of the e-Envoy, a Cabinet Office unit, according to Whitehall sources.

It is modelled on the American Information Sharing & Analysis Centre (AISAC), whose 19 members include Microsoft, Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Oracle, Intel, IBM and KPMG. John Harrison, chairman of UK-Saint's working party, said: "It is an attempt to create an environment where companies can share information on the latest hack.

"The information may sometimes be price-sensitive so that on the face of it they [companies] may not be willing to share. But the scheme is designed to allow the IT industry to design better components and make software more secure."

It is likely to be funded by member organisations, paying an annual subscription to access information. But the CSSA and AEB are understood to be looking for start-up money to get the scheme off the ground.

In the US, the AISAC was formed with $500,000 (£345,000) of seed money from some of its larger members, including Hewlett Packard. The annual subscription is $5,000.