"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."
The EU is taking on two important roles to ensure our online
privacy and security: the creation of a uniform legislation about privacy and users’ rights, with a single national data protection authority, and now the creation of a Cybercrime Center to fight online fraud.
With over 75 percent of its population connected to the Internet, Europe
is a key target for cybercrime. Cybercriminals can act from anywhere, within or outside the European borders. Until now, cybercriminals have been able to move from one European Union member state to another with almost impunity, thanks to lack of coordination between law enforcement agencies and no single entity responsible for those crimes. Efficient control of the EU's external borders is thus crucial for free movement, and that includes fighting cybercrime.
The authority of the Center will come from the European Commission
itself, and will operate within Europol,
the European law enforcement agency, accountable at EU level to the Council of Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs.
The responsibilities of the new entity will be:
- Fighting cybercrime, with a focus on illegal online activities carried out by organized crime.
- Preventing cybercrimes affecting e-banking and online booking.
- Protecting social network profiles from e-crime infiltration and helping fight identity theft.
- Preventing and fighting cyber-attacks affecting critical infrastructure and IT in the Union.
- Fighting and prosecuting cybercrimes that cause serious harm to the victims, such as online child abuse and exploitation.
"The European centre will warn EU Member States of
major cybercrime threats and alert them of weaknesses in their online defences. It will identify organised cyber-criminal networks and prominent offenders in cyberspace. It will provide operational support in concrete investigations, be it with forensic assistance or by helping to set up cybercrime Joint Investigation Teams," says the press
Europol already has a High Tech Crime Centre, which advises
national law enforcement agencies and coordinates their efforts, but it doesn't have a legal mandate to take over investigations and initiate procedures against cybercriminals. It will now be able to interact at the highest level with other national entities outside the EU, such as the FBI.
Cybercrime is a global phenomenon, and coordination between
law enforcement agencies is the best way to fight it. The new Cybercrime Center will reduce the possibility of corruption in some member states, adding a new level of trust for European citizens. Member states need to pool their efforts at EU level.