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Europe to assemble crack cyber-intelligence nerve centre

... as MEPs propose fresh hacking laws

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Brussels hopes to establish a European Cybercrime Centre within the continent's police agency Europol by the start of January.

The centre proposed by the European Commission will focus on thwarting online banking fraud, attacks against smartphones, and large-scale coordinated assaults on public services and infrastructure. Other priorities will include protecting social network profiles, halting ID theft and combating the sexual exploitation of children online.

National police agencies, government-run organisations and private sector technology firms across many countries are already grappling with these problems, of course. Eurocrats want the proposed anticrime squad to act as an intelligence and co-ordination hub, as explained in this statement issued on Wednesday:

The centre would pool European cybercrime expertise and training efforts. It would warn EU countries of major cybercrime threats, of new ways to commit online crimes and identify organised cybercrime networks and prominent offenders in cyberspace.

The centre would also be able to respond to queries from cybercrime investigators, prosecutors and judges as well as the private sector on specific technical and forensic issues. It would provide operational support in concrete investigations and help set up cybercrime joint investigation teams.

In related news, a European parliamentary committee put forward a draft directive on Tuesday calling for criminal laws against computer hacking to be enacted across all EU countries, with the maximum penalty set at two years or more, or at least five years if there are aggravating factors - such as financial motivation or attacks that cause widespread disruption.

The proposal also calls for measures to make companies liable for attacks carried out for their benefit and the outlawing of hacking tools.

One man's hacking tool is another man's penetration testing utility, of course. Fortunately the fine print of the proposals recognises this distinction, as explained in a blog post by Rik Ferguson of Trend Micro here. ®

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