EU to get tough on cybercrime, file-sharers to be spared

European Commission proposes new European cybercrime force as part of Europol

The European Commission is to get tough on cybercrime, but won't target illegal file-sharing, it revealed on Wednesday.

The Commission proposes to set up a European Cybercrime Centre as part of the European police force, Europol, in The Hague in the Netherlands. The center would have a separate governing board, but would be charged with identifying organized cybercriminal networks and providing operational support.

Europol helps European Union law enforcement organizations exchange criminal intelligence, but has no executive powers. It primarily targets trafficking in people, drugs and vehicles; terrorism; counterfeiting of the euro, and money laundering. It already has a mandate to monitor cybercrime, which the proposed center would expand on by adding digital forensics and other capabilities, according to a Europol statement.

But European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, was keen to underline that the center would not be looking at illegal file-sharing.

Instead, the Commissioner wants to shut down organized crime groups generating large criminal profits.

There's plenty of work to be done: research by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that cyber attacks accounted for 38 percent of all economic crime incidents that finance companies experienced in 2011.

Malmström cited figures putting the global cost of cybercrime at between US$114 billion and $388 billion a year, and pointed to German Criminal Police Office statistics showing recorded cases of 'phishing in online banking in Germany increasing from just under 2,000 incidents in 2008 to more than 5,000 in 2010.

The new center is expected to cost around €3.6 million (US$4.8 million) in the first year, and could start operations in January of next year. However the proposal still needs to be adopted by the budgetary authority of Europol.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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Jennifer Baker

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