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Huge demand for online counter-terror advice

With the threat of global terrorism uppermost in people's minds, MI5's newly launched counter-terrorism website received about 3m hits on its first day.

Designed to offer threat assessment and safety advice to UK businesses, the website was compiled by the security service's National Security Advice Centre, which works to protect government assets and companies vital to the country's infrastructure.

Traditionally such information is meant for the eyes and ears of Government alone, but MI5 director general Eliza Manningham-Buller said it was important to help more people - especially businesses - protect themselves.

"For the most part details of our operations must and should remain secret. But stopping terrorists is only one part of our collective defences against terrorism," said Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Director General of the Security Service.

Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said the risk from terrorism "is very real and we have a duty to ensure that individuals and businesses are armed with the information that allows them to take sensible and proportionate steps to protect themselves from new and emerging threats".

"That is why I have undertaken to put as much information into the public domain as possible, for example through our own terrorism website. The information we make available to the public is constantly reviewed to ensure that it provides a realistic assessment without causing undue alarm," Blunkett added.

These warning come as newly released US figures suggest terrorist attacks are at an international 30-year low.

The website publishes a Top Ten list of safety tips for businesses and other organisations.

These include advice to carry out risk assessments, look at mail-handling procedures, and thorough identity checks on all staff.

Businesses are urged to protect information, as terrorists are likely to try to get access to details that would be useful to them, by infiltrating organisations or getting help from an "insider".

In addition to advice, the new website contains a section entitled "How you can help", which allows users to contact the security service through a secure page.

This, along with a page offering information on the work of MI5, has been translated into Arabic in a bid to build cooperation with the Muslim community.

Dr James Hart, commissioner of police for the City of London, said the website would be "an enormous advantage" to the counter-terrorism effort.

Conservative homeland security spokesman Patrick Mercer welcomed the website, but said it was long overdue.

MI5 also lists Northern Ireland related terrorism, espionage and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as continuing threats to the UK.

Sources: BBC Online, ePolitix, The Register

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