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EU Commissioner for Home Affairs
Speech: EC³, a European response to cybercrime
Opening Ceremony of the European Cybercrime Centre (EC³)/ The Hague/ The Netherlands
11 January 2013
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to welcome you all to Den Haag and the opening of our European Cybercrime Centre, the EC³. This is indeed a day I have been very much looking forward to.
Ever since we adopted the Internal Security Strategy more than two years ago, I was determined that we urgently had to set up a European Cybercrime Centre. I have received strong support from the Ministers, the European Parliament, as well as from the public on this.
And here we are today. Many people have made great efforts to make this happen, but I would like to thank two of them in particular - the Europol Director, Mr Wainwright and the Director of the EC³, Mr Oerting.
Some people might ask why we need a cybercrime centre in Europe. The short answer is to protect the open and free Internet.
New technologies have become an important part of the everyday lives of EU citizens, companies, organisations and authorities. We use Facebook and Skype to communicate with friends and family.
Our banks have moved their offices online. Furthermore, we manage our highways and power supplies electronically, and authorities communicate important information to citizens on the Internet.
This is indeed good news. But with our growing dependence on these technologies also comes growing opportunities for criminals.
And from what I have seen so far, the criminals are ahead of us when it comes to imagination and cooperation. Two years ago, I said this must be the golden age of the cyber criminals, and unfortunately this still seem to be the case.
So how worried are people? A recent Eurobarometer survey found that most EU internet users expressed high levels of concern about cybersecurity. 89% avoid disclosing personal information online due to security concerns. 74% - 3 out of 4 citizens - agree that the risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime has increased in the past year.
Since the use of cyberspace in our daily lives is bound to continue growing, such trends are not to be taken lightly.
Our challenge is to make cyberspace secure for citizens and companies.
Our response is EC³.
When deciding where to put the cybercrime centre, our analysis concluded that to set it up within Europol would be the most efficient and cost-effective option.
And we do not start from scratch. With limited resources, Europol has done tremendous work in the field of cybercrime for a bit more than a decade now.
Only last year, and to cite one example, Operation ICARUS, coordinated by Europol, identified 273 online child sexual abuse suspects. 113 of those suspects, spread across 23 countries, were arrested.
The idea behind the EC³ is to have a forward-thinking centre of highly-skilled personnel – the best brains in Europe.
The centre will mark a significant step forward in the EU's endeavour to fight cybercrime and increase cyber security, building on human rights and fundamental freedoms.
In order to launch the EC³ as quickly as possible, my services have been working hand in hand with Europol to make the set-up as smooth as possible.
It is no secret that one of the main concerns has been financing. While everyone agrees that we need a cybercrime centre, asking for more resources in this deep economic crisis in Europe is not easy.
Mr Wainwright has been very generous in the past months and made more staff available to the Centre. I do however not exclude that more reallocations might be needed from Europol in the future.
I have said that the setting up of EC³ does not come for free. I still mean that, and will certainly continue to fight for more resources to EC³ in every way I can.
And despite these difficult economic times, I'm optimistic that we will succeed. But let me at the same time say that we should not expect miracles. The EU agencies are in general expected to cut staff, not to get more people. So we have to have a long-term perspective on this.
I would also like to thank those Member States that have seconded staff to the EC³, and encourage more countries to assist the Centre with personnel.
Besides financing, a major issue in the preparations has been to set up the EC³ Programme Board, whose constituent members are also with us today. The diversity of the Board reflects the comprehensive approach needed to fight cybercrime.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As of today, the EC³ will strive to be the European focal point in the fight against cybercrime, equipped with state-of-the-art technology and a strong team of highly-qualified personnel.
The Centre will fulfil its mission by helping Member States to dismantle and disrupt more cybercrime networks. It will develop detection and forensic tools for cybercrime investigators. It will provide specialised threat assessments, as well as offer more focused training for law enforcement, judges and prosecutors.
While being ambitious we must also be realistic. The Centre cannot initially focus on all sorts of cybercrime. Fraud, intrusion and internet related abuse of children are therefore amongst the crimes that will be targeted in the initial phase.
Together with the US, we recently launched a Global Alliance against Child Sexual Abuse Online. 48 countries so far have agreed to increase their efforts to fight this horrible crime. I count on EC³ to be an important facilitator for the EU in this work.
The key to success of the EC³ is cooperation, and not only within the Law Enforcement Community. The EC³ will therefore work closely with a broad range of partners, from other EU Agencies, as well as computer emergency response teams, to private sector and the research community.
Eventually, the results will speak for themselves. I am convinced that the EC³ will manage to meet the expectations of Member States because it is conceived to complement and boost their efforts to fight a crime that by its very nature knows no borders or jurisdictions.
Let me conclude by saying that this is a good day for Europe. By inaugurating the EC³, we send a signal to the cybercriminals that we will come after them. And by 'we' I mean 27 Member States together with the EU institutions, as well as industry, academia and civil society. Never before has the EU responded in such a strong way.
It is bound to be a very promising year and I wish the management and staff of the EC³ and Europol all the best in delivering the results we need to make cyberspace more secure.