The UK government has taken its fight against online viruses to the front lines with a new Web site, called ITsafe, designed to send rapid security alerts to home and small business computer users.

What the UK government has utterly failed to achieve with its new resource is to recognise the existence of computer systems not based on the virus-prone Windows OS.

Many Macworld readers have already complained that nowhere on the site do UK "safety experts" state that the Mac OS X environment is highly stable and secure.

The free service will be run by the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC). Along with alerts, it also offers advice on protecting personal data both on home and work computers, the Home Office said.

The government will use the system to issue official alerts if the NISCC determines a particular virus, or other security breach, poses a serious enough threat to the public. Based on past experience, the Home Office estimates about six to ten security alerts will be issued each year.

It estimates over half of all UK households have a home computer with about 13 million of those having Internet access.

Alerts will only be issued if the NISCC feels there is something users can do to protect themselves from a particular threat, such as updating software to close loopholes or downloading security patches from an antivirus vendor, the Home Office said. The ITsafe site will not supply patches or software.

ITsafe will send alerts by email as well as by text messages over mobile devices to users who signed up for the service.

Additional reporting by Laura Rohde