China’s stringent online restrictions are set to become even more extreme, as the country’s Ministry of Public Security has announced that cybersecurity police will be placed into the offices of major internet companies.

The ministry said the move will strengthen China’s national security by guarding against hacking, communication by terrorist groups, and fraud. It added that the plan will enable authorities to move more quickly against illegal online behavior such as online scams, pornography and rumor spreading.

Police should take a leading role in online security and work closely with Internet regulators, the deputy minister, Chen Zhimin, told a conference in Beijing on Tuesday. "We will set up 'network security offices' inside important website and internet firms, so that we can catch criminal behavior online at the earliest possible point," Mr Chen said.

The ministry did not say when the initiative will go into effect, but it has sent notices to China Mobile, the country’s largest telecom, e-commerce giant Alibaba, WeChat owner Tencent, and online security company Qihoo 360.

Chinese websites already have to abide by strict government censorship laws and are often forced to delete content that is deemed offensive. Online companies are expected to assist police in tracking down internet users who post messages critical of the Chinese Communist Party, and require users to register with their real personal information.

China has increased its focus on improving cybersecurity measures recently, after former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said US intelligence agencies were using tech companies to spy on the country. Beijing has already cracked down on the use of VPNs and made it increasingly difficult to use Google services such as Gmail.

Image credit: David Carillet / Shutterstock