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Germany

Microsoft Head in Germany for a Safer Net

Politicians, businesses and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates have launched a project to improve Internet safety in Germany, where billions are lost yearly due to viruses, spam and online crime.

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Spam, computers viruses, spyware and phishing cost business billions

In the last year, 50 percent more viruses were on the loose as hackers repeatedly paralyzed computer systems worldwide. Their tinkering, along with floods of spam junk e-mails and phishing and spyware attacks that surreptitiously collect and pass on personal information from PCs, has caused an incalculable amount of damage. But now a German initiative made up of leading IT and Internet companies, experts, politicians and public institutions have decided to fight the scourge with a project called "Deutschland sicher-im-Netz" (Germany Safe on the Net).

"The threats have increased," said Microsoft CEO Bill Gates at the launch of the initiative in Munich on Monday. "Even Microsoft, with a research and development budget of billions can't cope with it."

Work days lost

Bill Gates auf dem Weltwirtschaftsforum 2005 in Davos

Internet security is a priority for Bill Gates too

Gates said the aim was to make the Internet as secure as electricity or water supplies. The groups involved, including German software firm SAP, eBay as well as the German Children's Charity and the German Association of Municipalities, said they would work to protect users from security problems and Internet criminality. Users can learn more about guarding their private spheres on the initiative's Website, which aims to boost confidence in Internet security.

But Gates didn't get to bask in the limelight without criticism as German Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement, the initiative's patron, sent a volley in the billionaire's direction. "Mistakes in software development frequently allowed the attacks in the first place," he said. Information from Germany's IT security authority showed that computer viruses cost the country's businesses 1.2 million work days each year.

"That is significantly more, Mr. Gates, than was lost to strikes," Clement said.

Safety standards

However, both Clement and Gates stressed that the problem could only be adequately dealt with if politicians and business cooperated to improve Internet security. Gates called for a public-private partnership to establish safety standards. The project's initiators said they would develop and distribute a CD that would carry out a thorough computer security check.

The initiative targets small and medium-sized firms in particular, since they are more likely to neglect security issues than large companies. "If the small-and medium sized companies gain more trust in the Internet through higher security, the entire business community profits, particularly e-business," commented Sandra Schulz from the German IT, Telecoms and New Media association BITCOM.

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