The world's first professional institute for information security practitioners received its offical launch yesterday (Monday 27 Jan.) with support coming from both UK industry and government.

The Institute for Information Security Professionals (IISP), based in the UK, will act as a governing body for the industry, managing qualifications and providing a focus for debate and lobbying.

IISP chairman Paul Dory described the launch as "a milestone in a road of milestones" and ackowledged that the terms for full membership will not be made public until September.

"The demand for information security skills is rising sharply as is the need for professional accountability", he said. "Legislation like Sarbanes-Oxley has brought this to a head, and we need to raise the level of professionalism."

While the industry already has certification schemes such as CISSP and CISM, he said these were "knowledge qualifications", whereas there was a requirement for more judgement and experience that could only be achieved via broader training and a proper structured mentoring scheme.

The IISP was welcomed by Tony Neate, head of industry liaison for the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit. With the growing threat of organised crime on the internet, he said there was a huge demand for accredited investigators to help with prosecutions. "We are being let down in court because we cannot find the experts to help us," he said. He described the creation of IISP as "a nail in the coffin of hi-tech criminality."

Paul Wood, head of security for the Swiss bank UBS, said the ISSP would provide a single voice for the industry and "an avenue for dialogue and a major step in shaping best practice principles".

He warned that we should expect a lot more regulations in the coming years and that greater professionalism was essential to handle it.

Nick Coleman, the newly appointed chief executive for IISP, said 220 people had already applied to join either as affiliate or associate members, and 20 organisations had taken out corporate membership.

It will be for the members to help shape the qualifications for full membership, due for publication in September. IISP will also offer a structured mentoring scheme for new professionals, he said.

"We have been indundated with demands to join with some requests coming from the US, Australia, France and Korea," Coleman said.