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March 28, 2012updated 22 Aug 2016 12:57pm

EC proposes Cybercrime Centre to fight online threats

The Centre aims to stop cybercriminals from disrupting citizens and businesses

By Steve Evans

The European Commission (EC) has proposed a new Cybercrime Centre to protect citizens and businesses across the region from growing online threats.

It is hoped that the Centre will become the focal point for online security across Europe. It will be hosted in the European Police Office, Europol, in The Hague. Its primary focus will be on organised online crime, particularly crimes that generate a large amount of money, such as credit card and banking fraud.

The EC claims that more than one million people become victims of cybercrime every day, while the total cost of cybercrime could reach $388bn a year. It is a trend that is growing, the EC said.

The EC hopes that by protecting against threats aimed at e-banking and online booking services, consumer trust in using the internet will increase.

Part of its focus will be on protecting users’ social network profiles. As the EC points out, 600,000 Facebook accounts are blocked each day following hacking attempts.

It is hoped the Centre will act as an early-warning system to alert EU member states to emerging cybercrime threats as well as warn them of potential weaknesses in the cyber defences. It will also aim to identify organised cybercriminal networks and prominent offenders in cyberspace, the EU said.

It will also provide forensic assistance to investigations launched by any member states.

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The Centre will use information gathered from open sources, private industry, police and academia to help it to support investigations.

The EU hopes that the Centre will eventually form part of a worldwide approach to tackling cybercrime.

"Millions of Europeans use the Internet for home banking, online shopping and planning holidays, or to stay in touch with family and friends via online social networks. But as the online part of our everyday lives grows, organised crime is following suit – and these crimes affect each and every one of us," said Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs.

"We can’t let cybercriminals disrupt our digital lives. A European Cybercrime Centre within Europol will become a hub for cooperation in defending an internet that is free, open and safe," she added.

Jeremy Nicholls of Arbour Networks welcomed the announcement but added that it will take a more co-ordinated approach for it to really succeed.

"In Arbor’s Worldwide Infrastructure Report published last month, it was revealed that almost three quarters (74%) of respondents do not refer security incidents to law enforcement," he said.

"This figure, which appears to be caused by factors such a low level of confidence that something will be done, lack of resource within companies and general company policy – is a concerning one. We believe that the EU’s move towards creating this centre is a step in the right direction, but there needs to be a coordinated effort across the industry to really make this work," Nicholls added.

Another person in favour of the move is Ron Gula, CEO of Tenable Network Security. "Cybercrime is often perpetrated by individuals working together from different countries so I’m in favour of any law enforcement initiatives that allow for easier sharing of cyber-crimes, the techniques used and any data that may have been stolen," he said.

"The introduction of a new European Cybercrime Centre will enhance cybercrime coordination across the EU. At the moment, each EU country has different laws which affect user privacy and stipulate varying corporate penalties for losing data. Coordinating cybercrime offenders at the EU level will not only better leverage crime fighting resources in each EU country, but it will also provide a consistent response," he added.

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