European Cybercrime Centre to crack down on cyber threats

5 Apr 2012

The European Commission is proposing to set up a European Cybercrime Centre in the Hague to focus on online fraud, e-crime and identity theft.

According to the commission, more than 1m people are victims of cybercrime across the globe each day. It says the cost of cybercrime could reach US$388bn worldwide.

In the US, the FBI has also been honing in heavily on the evolving threat of cybercrime due to the digital age. In late March, for instance, following an FBI investigation, Christopher Chaney, a 35-year-old from Florida, pleaded guilty to a series of cybercrimes in which he hacked into the accounts of actresses and singers such as Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, and Christina Aguilera, to access nude photos and distribute them on the web.

As for the European Cybercrime Centre, the commission is proposing to set it up within the European Police Office, Europol in The Hague in The Netherlands.

Cybercrime hub

It said the centre will be the European focal point in fighting cybercrime and will focus on illegal online activities carried out by organised crime groups, especially those that generate large criminal profits, such as online fraud involving credit cards and bank credentials.

Just today, a new Trojan botnet affecting Macs was discovered after it infected 600,000 machines running Mac OS X globally.

To protect e-consumers, the commission said the EU experts would also work on preventing cybercrimes affecting e-banking and online booking activities.

Other focal points will include protecting social network profiles from e-crime infiltration to help combat online identity theft.

The centre will also be focusing on online child sexual exploitation and cyber attacks that affect critical infrastructure and information systems in the union.

The European centre will also warn EU member states of major cybercrime threats and alert them of weaknesses in their online defences.

Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, spoke about the online aspect of people’s everyday lives growing and organised crime following suit.

“We can’t let cybercriminals disrupt our digital lives. A European Cybercrime Centre within Europol will become a hub for co-operation in defending an internet that is free, open and safe,” she said.

Cybercrime statistics

Here’s a few statistics relating to internet usage in the EU and cybercrime, based on European Commission analysis:

  • By 2011, nearly 73pc of European households had internet access at home.
  • In 2010, more than 36pc of EU citizens were banking online.
  • 80pc of young Europeans connect through online social networks.
  • Circa US$8trn exchanges hands globally each year in e-commerce.
  • Credit card details can be sold between organised crime groups for as little as €1 per card, a counterfeited physical credit card for around €140 and bank credentials for as little as €60.
  • Up to 600,000 Facebook accounts are blocked every day, after hacking attempts.

The commission said the centre will fuse information from open sources, private industry, police and academia, as well as serving as a platform for European cybercrime investigators, where they can have a collective voice in discussions with the IT industry, private-sector companies, academia, users’ associations and civil society organisations.

The centre is expected to start operations in January of next year. The budgetary authority of Europol must now adopt the commission’s proposal.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic