Representatives of 60 nations will gather in London in an attempt to secure the benefits of the internet amid concern about rising levels of cyber attacks and online crime. Foreign Secretary William Hague has called for a "collective endeavour" to ensure the "enormous potential" of cyberspace for developing a safer, more prosperous world is fully realised. Britain wants to develop a set of international "rules of the road", establishing "norms of acceptable behaviour" in cyberspace, while stopping short of a full treaty advocated by some countries. Behind the scenes, however, there are tensions, and Baroness Neville-Jones, the Prime Minister's special representative to business on cyber security, on Monday publicly accused China and Russia - who are both attending the conference - of carrying out cyber warfare attacks aimed at stealing national security secrets from other countries. Meanwhile the head of Britain's secret electronic "listening" agency, GCHQ, has disclosed that a "significant" attempt was made to penetrate the computer systems of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and other Government departments over the summer. Iain Lobban did not say who was involved although Mr Hague has previously said a "hostile state intelligence agency" targeted the FCO system earlier in the year, with media reports quoting intelligence sources as saying China was responsible. With cybercrime estimated to cost 1 trillion US dollars (£600 billion) a year worldwide, Mr Lobban said the "disturbing" levels of illegal activity online represent "a very real threat to our prosperity". Mr Hague said: "How to ensure we can all reap the benefits of a safe and secure cyberspace for generations to come is one of the greatest challenges we face. The response does not lie in the hands of any one government or country but it is too important to be left to chance. This needs to be a collective endeavour, involving all those who have a stake in cyberspace. "The ideas and proposals we hope to emerge from the conference will develop into the 'London Agenda' - an inclusive and focused approach to help us realise the enormous potential cyberspace offers for a more prosperous, safe and open networked world." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was due to attend the conference, cancelled the trip after her mother, 92-year-old Dorothy Rodham, became ill. Copyright © 2011 The Press Association. All rights reserved.
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