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Brussels, 30 January 2001

Commission sets out plan to combat cybercrime

Mr Erkki Liikanen, Member of the European Commission for Enterprise and the Information Society and Mr Antonio Vitorino, Member of the European Commission for Justice and Home Affairs, today presented a Communication(1) from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the security of the network systems and the fight against computer crime. With this Communication, the Commission, for the first time, outlines its policy orientations in this field. Combating computer-related crime to create a safer internet is one of the objectives of the eEurope 2002 Action Plan and is vital for the further development of the e-commerce in Europe and for the Information Society as a whole. The Communication initiates an on-line public consultation for 2 months.

Given the growing importance of information and communication infrastructures, it has become essential to make them more secure and to reinforce safety and confidence in the information society. Indeed, these infrastructures can also offer new opportunities for criminal activities, which may take a large variety of forms and cross many borders. These offences constitute a threat to industry investment and assets and can cause extensive financial damage, as demonstrated by some recent examples of denial of service and virus attacks. There is therefore scope for action both in terms of preventing criminal activity by enhancing the security of information infrastructures and by ensuring that the law enforcement authorities have the appropriate means to act if prevention fails.

"The freedom of Internet, the source of its very success, has to be preserved. The fact also is: no security, no trust, no transactions. All the impressive forecasts we have seen regarding the growth of electronic commerce will remain a pie in the sky if people can not have trust on electronic transactions", said Mr Erkki Liikanen.

Progress so far

A number of steps have already been taken to fight harmful and illegal content on the Internet, to protect intellectual property and personal data, to promote electronic commerce and the use of electronic signatures and to enhance the security of transactions. In October 1999, at the Tampere Summit of the European Council, it was decided to agree on common definitions and sanctions for computer-related crimes. The European Parliament has also called for commonly acceptable definitions of computer-related offences and for effective approximation of legislation, in particular in substantive criminal law.

The Council of the European Union has adopted a Common Position on the Council of Europe cybercrime convention negotiations and has adopted a number of initial elements as part of the Union's strategy against high-tech crime. Some EU Member States have also been at the forefront of relevant G8 activities.

Mr António Vitorino said: "Electronic communication networks have a revolutionary impact on our societies as a whole. I therefore consider action directed against cybercrime as one of the priorities to establish an area of freedom, security and justice in Europe."

Today's measures

The Commission Communication sets the orientations for a harmonised policy to combat computer crime and install necessary mechanisms, without hindering the rapid development of e-commerce in the EU and respecting the fundamental right to privacy. The Communication announces both legislative proposals and non-legislative measures.

First, the legislative proposals include the approximation of Member States' laws, further to a proposal relating to child pornography offences. The latter is part of a package covering wider issues associated with the sexual exploitation of children and trafficking in human beings, which the Commission adopted recently (see COM (2000)854). The Commission in the longer term will bring forward proposals for a further approximation of substantive criminal law in the area of high-tech crime, including offences related to hacking, denial of service attacks. The Commission will also examine the scope for action against racism and xenophobia on the Internet with a view to bringing forward a proposal covering both "off-line" and "on-line" racist and xenophobic activity.

Second, the Communication suggests a series of non-legislative proposals to encourage awareness and training among various Information security actors. These proposals include the creation of an EU Forum with the participation of representatives from law enforcement agencies, service providers, network operators, consumer groups and data protection authorities. This Forum will aim to enhance co-operation at EU level, to raise public awareness on the risks posed by criminals on the Internet and to promote best practices for IT security. Among other proposals the Communications also insist on the need to support the training of law enforcement staff on high-tech crime issues via existing Commission programmes.

Furthermore, security and trust will remain a key priority for the Commission in the context of its current Information Society related activities, such as the Internet Action Plan, the IST Programme and in the framework of its eEurope initiative.


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