EC urges coordinated effort against cybercrime

Commission sites known crimimal gangs and Russia's attacks against Estonia as reasons for organizing to battle criminals

Russia's coordinated attacks against Estonia's computer systems earlier this month were cited as one of the many reasons why the European Union countries should work more closely to fight cybercrime, European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs Franco Frattini said Tuesday.

Similarly, the existence of two known criminal gangs operating in the E.U. and believed to have clocked up profits in excess of US$100 million each from Internet fraud is another reason the European Commission -- the E.U.'s executive body -- has decided to take action, the commissioner said in a press conference.

Estonia was temporarily crippled by the Russian attack, which is believed to have been in response to the removal of a Soviet war memorial from the center of the Estonian capital, Tallinn. Estonian officials said the attacks on the country's government Web sites were traced to Russian government servers.

The development of the Internet and other information systems has opened many new possibilities for criminals, the Commission said in a statement issued Tuesday.

"Legislation and operational law enforcement have obvious difficulties in keeping pace," it said. The Commission added that the cross-border character of these threats "further underlines the need for strengthened international cooperation and coordination," not only among national authorities but with countries outside the E.U.

The Commission will host a cybercrime conference in Brussels in November. "The aim, simply, is the eradication of cybercrime," Frattini said.

"In Estonia there were 128 separate attacks during the first two weeks of May," Frattini said. "These were coordinated attacks against a state -- not just a ministry. In situations like this we need to cooperate and we need to develop a strategy for prevention," he added.

The E.U. has invited NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to help Estonia rebuild its damaged information infrastructure and protect it against further attacks, the commissioner said.

NATO, more used to fighting insurgents in Afghanistan, is likely to be involved more closely in computer security issues in the future, Frattini said.

The two Internet fraud gangs are under investigation in the U.K. and in other E.U. countries but lack of cooperation among authorities in different countries is hampering the probes, Frattini said. He declined to name the other countries involved in the investigations.

In addition to fraud, European Internet users are also exposed to child pornography and terrorism, he added.

The Commission's aim is to improve coordination among the E.U. countries, increase the amount of intelligence sharing between national law enforcement authorities and pass laws when necessary to outlaw dangerous conduct.

Frattini pointed out that instructions to build a bomb are readily available and legal in many E.U. countries.

"We are ready to criminalize the publishing of instructions for bomb making on the Internet across the E.U. so that law authorities can disconnect these Web sites. At the moment it isn't possible to do that in all countries," he said.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.