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Cracking down on cybercrime - 28/03/2012

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New EU watchdog would issue alerts on emerging threats and help investigators identify cyber criminals.

Around one million people are victims of computer crime every day. The perpetrators are unseen, and often go unpunished.

The EU plans to tackle this with a new European Cybercrime Centre , which would warn EU countries of major threats and alert them to weaknesses in their online defences. It would also identify criminal networks and prominent offenders, and provide support during investigations.

The centre will use information from the public domain, industry, the police and academia to assist cybercrime investigators, prosecutors and judges.

Anyone can be a victim of cybercrime – it includes:

  • online identity theft
  • computer fraud
  • credit card scams
  • sexual exploitation of children
  • hijacking of web accounts
  • attacks on public or private IT systems

And this type of crime is increasing. Around 600,000 Facebook accounts need blocking every day after hacking attempts. In Belgium alone, internet fraud rose from just over 4,000 cases in 2008 to over 7,000 in 2010. And in the UK, bank account takeovers shot up by 207% between 2008 and 2009.

A crackdown on cybercrime will help to increase confidence in e-banking and online booking, and will save millions of euros – a 2011 study put the global cost of cybercrime at €85-291bn.

Unfortunately, very few of the perpetrators are currently caught.

The pan-EU nature of the centre would ensure that threats are passed on quickly to other EU countries. If someone in Lithuania reports that their bank account has been accessed illegally, it could be linked quickly to similar incidents anywhere from Greece to Ireland, allowing the centre to immediately alert all EU countries to the threat.

The centre would also respond to technical and forensic questions from investigators, prosecutors and judges.

The centre would be based within the European police agency – Europol in The Hague, which must first approve the proposal.

More on cybercrime and the EU

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