The UK government has been urged to pay further attention to its current and defunct websites after it was revealed the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) domain name is now owned by a German entrepreneur and not UK authorities.

The NHTCU closed in April 2006 when its cases were transferred to the Serious Organised Crime Unit (SOCA). However, the website is still active after German Uwe Matt purchased the domain name in August, and a number of reputable organisations, including the BBC, have been linking to the website as a reputable source.

According to security firm Sophos, this move is sending out the wrong message to hackers and cyber criminals.

"If you can steal the identity of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit from right under the government's nose then what message does that give the world about the state of the nation's computer security? Letting the domain name go like this demonstrates a sloppiness on the part of the authorities," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

Cluley adds that its likely Matt bought the site to get higher rankings on search engines such as Google, but there's nothing to stop him selling the website domain on to someone else who may use the site to host malicious code or spam-related content.

"With reputable organisations still linking to the site, the danger is that innocent computer users could accidentally find themselves the victim of a cyber attack. In the worst possible scenario, fraudsters could in future use the site to pretend to be the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit and try and harvest confidential information from computer crime victims," added Cluley.