Beijing has introduced strict new regulations to step up its surveillance of the Internet. The Ministry of Information and Technology has ordered all Internet service providers operating in 'sensitive and strategic sectors' - such as news sites, bulletin board services and online forums - to record details about users, including viewing times, account numbers, addresses and telephone numbers. The regulations also require providers to install software to screen and copy e-mails that include 'sensitive material' to enable cyber-police to trace suspects transmitting such material via the Net. Under the rules, providers must end a transmission immediately if they detect obscene material or 'subversive' information, such as articles seen to advocate terrorism, threaten national security and ethnic unity or harm China's reputation. Providers are required to report any rule-breakers to the Ministry of Information and Technology, the Ministry of Public Security and the Bureau for the Protection of State Secrets. Providers must have back-up equipment and software to cope with system crashes, whether they are due to congestion or hackers. They must also take all necessary precautions to protect users' accounts and passwords. The measures also state that software providers are not allowed to have any hidden programs in the software which may enable them to spy, hack or spread destructive viruses. Foreign software suppliers are further required to state in contracts that software bought by mainland authorities does not contain any hidden programs. Suppliers will also not be permitted to log on to mainland network management systems from outside the country 'unless authorised to do so'. In a bid to strengthen national security, the regulations require all key and higher-level network management systems to use domestic software instead of imported products. The new regulations follow 60 rules that became effective on January 31 last year, which stated that content providers must be licensed and must not publish or reproduce anything that conflicts with the basic principles of the constitution. The new restrictions also hold mainland providers responsible for stopping 'illegal content' and 'subversive content' being posted on their Web sites. The rules stipulate that they should only post news from domestic media sources under a signed agreement with the sources. A fear that state secrets may be leaked, combined with a rapid increase in cyber crime, have become urgent issues to the authorities. The number of Internet users rose to 33.7 million late last year, 50 per cent up from the same period in the previous year. Chinese authorities have also prosecuted dozens of Internet 'activists' for posting 'dissident views' online. Internet cafe operators also have to fulfil a list of requirements for a licence, including installing police-approved software to bar access to games and illegal sites and to record customers' details.