New EU agency to manage large IT systems with citizen data

Sensitive data could create hacking target

The European Union's General Affairs Council on Monday approved plans to establish a pan-European agency to manage its large-scale IT systems.

The new agency will be responsible for the operational management of a vast amount of sensitive data including the second-generation Schengen Information System (a common database which facilitates the exchange of information on individuals between national law enforcement authorities), the Visa Information System (a database that will allow member states to enter, update and consult visa data, including biometric data, electronically) and EURODAC (an IT system for comparing the fingerprints of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants).

Given the sensitivity of this information, experts have warned that effective security is essential immediately as large amounts of aggregated data can create a target for cybercriminals. Earlier this year, an attack on the European Commission disrupted email systems, while an attack on the E.U.'s Emissions Trading Scheme saw at least €30 million (US$41 million) of emissions allowances stolen from national registries.

The new agency will also be responsible for the management of other IT systems that might be developed in the future. However, any integration of further systems will require a specific decision by the European Council and the European Parliament.

The plan is for the agency to start working in summer 2012. The head office will be in Tallin, Estonia, with development and operational management carried out in Strasbourg, France and a back-up site in Sankt Johann im Pongau, Austria.

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