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Europe's cybercrime fighters get new digs... complete with Faraday room

Europol coppers set up shop in The Hague

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The EU’s new European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) will be inaugurated at Europol in The Hague later today.

The facility will act as the "focal point" in the EU’s fight against cybercrime, against both businesses and private citizens. The centre is designed to provide greater international co-ordination in the fight against online fraud, child abuse and other cybercrimes which can't be effectively tackled by national police forces alone.

It will focus on organised crime groups, especially attacks targeting e-banking and other online financial activities, online child sexual exploitation and crimes that affect the critical infrastructure and information systems in the EU.

EC3 will act as a hub where crime-fighters can pool expertise and information, support criminal investigations and help develop and spread best practice. The centre is designed to draw on information from open sources, private industry, police and academia while acting as a knowledge base and training centre for national police forces in European member states. It will also work with industry to develop threat assessments.

It will work closely with the FBI and the US Secret service, in addition to other foreign agencies.

“EU citizens and businesses require an open, free and transparent cyberspace so we need to protect the online world just as we do the off-line world," said Troels Ørting, head of EC3, said in a statement. "EC3 will be a valuable tool for the EU and its Member States to help coordinate and support efforts that keep the Net safe from criminals”,

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, added: "The Cybercrime Centre (EC3) will focus our efforts and provide a strong boost to the EU's capacity to fight cybercrime. We need to reduce cybercrime activities, contain the threat and ensure the digital environment remains a secure place for our citizens and businesses. This is key for the EU's internet-based economy," she added.

A look inside the new European Cybercrime Centre can be found in a video report by the BBC here. The facility includes a Faraday room to act as a repository for seized equipment used in the commission of cybercrime, including ATM skimmers with built-in technology designed to transmit stolen PIN codes and card details by mobile phone. The facility stops crooks from remotely wiping seized gear.

EC3 head honcho Ørting told the BBC that African fraudsters pose a growing threat to consumers and businesses in the EU, as the IT infrastructure on the continent improves. Ørting is a former Danish police intelligence chief with more than 30 years of experience fighting organised crime. Europol has assigned 43 highly skilled experts to work at the centre, Ørting told EurActiv. He added that there were also plans to deploy experts with mobile offices – a kind of “flying squad” – to deliver on-the-spot assistance in cybercrime investigations.

The official opening of the centre comes days after Europol warned that most of the credit card numbers misused in the EU come from data breaches in the US. Security enhancements such as chip-and-PIN cards have reduced incidents of face-to-face transactions. Around 60 per cent of losses to card fraud, totaling around €900m, were caused by card-not-present fraud, the EU said.

Organised criminal groups make €1.5bn a year from credit card fraud in Europe, according to Europol. ®

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