Computer Crime Research Center

Europe takes on cybercrime

A rapid reaction force to act against attacks on computer networks is to be set up by the European Commission

The European Commission will next week announce plans to set up a pan-European rapid reaction force against attacks on vital computer networks, a Commission spokesman has said.

Authorities worldwide have woken up to the dangers of serious network failures, such as those caused by computer worm "SQL Slammer" earlier this year.

Potential terror strikes are also a source of concern after the 11 September attacks.

"The task force would enable member states' authorities... to liase with each other to respond better and more efficiently to any threat to vital networks," the spokesman told Reuters on Thursday.

Individual European Union member states already operate crisis units against threats posed by Internet hackers and spreaders of computer viruses.

The new set-up would enable the 15-nation EU to run a single, round-the-clock information exchange system against cyberattacks.

The EU has already harmonised legislation against cybercrime in the 15 nation states. Under the EU rules, hackers seeking unauthorised access to a computer system can face years of jail.

Growing problem
A Europol official told Reuters that the authorities acknowledged cybercrime was a growing problem, but that it was difficult to estimate damage as statistics were lacking.

Joe McNamee, representing the European Internet Services Providers Associations (EuroISPA), said the Commission's action was "a positive sign", but lamented it had taken so long.

Another industry source was sceptical about the EU's ability to gather quickly the necessary information, as operators are often reluctant to report an attack.

In November, a Europol official told attendees of a security conference in London that Europe's law enforcement community was ill-equipped to take on cybercrime.

"With cybercrime, it's become so obvious that we've lost the battle even before we've begun to fight. We can't keep up," Rolf Hegel, head of Europol's cybercrime unit, said then.


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