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EU plans international virus warning system

Bill Goodwin
Security: European governments are called upon to act over the growing virus threat

European governments will be asked to support plans for an international early warning system for computer viruses at a meeting of ministers this month.

The proposals follow concerns about the growing frequency and cost of virus outbreaks to businesses. Viruses such as Nimda and Code Red have cost firms millions of pounds.

Belgium, which currently holds the EU presidency, is leading the call for the early warning system as part of a wider move to encourage governments to co-operate in fighting computer crime.

It is pressing member states to create a series of national computer virus and cybercrime centres which would swap intelligence and give advance warning of emerging threats.

"All the bodies will interact, exchange information and co-ordinate responses to attacks. When we have a system on a European level, we should go forward and collaborate on a global scale," said Joost Laga, security advisor to the Belgian government.

The European virus warning system will draw on the experience of the Belgian government, which created its own early warning centre in the aftermath of the Love Bug virus.

The centre, operated jointly by the Belgian government and the private sector, assesses virus reports and issues early warnings on national radio if a serious attack is imminent.

Belgium claims the system has dramatically reduced the damage caused by viruses to smaller companies that lack the resources to employ IT security professionals.

"When there is a virus we are able to warn companies soon enough to prevent them logging on to the Internet, and to prevent people logging on to the Internet in the evening when they get home from work," said Laga.

The proposals are due to be presented in an action plan that will go before governments at a telecommunications council on 15 October.

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