Euro chiefs clamp down on computer crime

The European Commission is to unveil a comprehensive action plan to strengthen laws across Europe to tackle the growth in...

The European Commission is to unveil a comprehensive action plan to strengthen laws across Europe to tackle the growth in hacking, child pornography, racist sites and other computer crimes.

Bill Goodwin

The plan, due to be unveiled in the next few days, calls for new legislation that will help law enforcement agencies fight computer crime across European borders.

The proposals contained in a draft communication represent the most serious attempt by governments to safeguard the security of critical commercial and government computer systems.

The communication called for EU members to make it simpler for police forces to fight the increasing cross-border nature of computer security by adopting common computer crime laws.

Despite the efforts of international organisations, national laws still show "remarkable differences" in their approaches to hacking, the protection of trade secrets and illegal content, the communication said.

The plan calls for changes to co-operation agreements between national governments, to ensure that police can investigate international offenses and obtain evidence quickly from crimes committed overseas.

Member states will be encouraged to create computer crime units, and the commission will offer support to train police forces in the skills needed to police high-tech crime.

The heart of the proposals include a Europe-wide computer crime forum that will bring together Internet service providers, telcos, consumers, civil liberties groups, regulators and businesses to develop computer crime policy.

One of its key tasks will be to assess the need for communication service providers to hold historic databases of e-mail and telephone traffic data for law enforcement agencies.

Leaked demands by the UK's intelligence service to have access to traffic data going back seven years caused consternation among ISPs and telcos in December.

"Together industry and law enforcement can raise public awareness on the risks posed by criminals on the Internet, promote best practices for security and develop effective counter-crime tools and procedures," the communication said.

The programme will be accompanied by financial support for research programmes, to develop computer security techniques and technologies.

The Commission is also planning research to establish for the first time the extent and cost of computer-crime in Europe's member states.

Businesses will have the opportunity to give their comments on the communication and to make representations to a public hearing in February.

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