GARY McKinnon, a British citizen, succeeded in hacking into 97 US military and Nasa computers; the United States seems to be winning the battle to extradite him to face serious charges of endangering American security. Last week a so-far unidentified source attacked a blogger in Georgia in the Caucuses and in the process brought down Facebook and Twitter temporarily.

Whether putting Facebook and Twitter out of action is a greater crime than hacking into US defence communications is a moot point but the Kremlin is being blamed for what seems like a lesser crime. At different times China and North Korea have been accused of what is now being called “cyber warfare”.

The issue of online security whether for governments, private institutions or individuals is becoming increasingly important. For instance, concern is being expressed about the huge National Health Service computer database in Britain which will hold the health records of every individual treated by the Service. Yes, it will mean that every doctor can immediately check critical information but how secure will these records be from prying eyes? There is no doubt about the benefits that the internet has brought but the pace at which it has developed and the range of information it now carries leaves one worried about how far its security can be guaranteed against casual or organised intruders.