EU to set up center to fight cybercrime

Cecilia Malmstrom said the center will become a focal point for European-wide initiatives, and will pay attention to social networks, the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet, and cyber-attacks targeting “critical infrastructures.”

LONDON, UK – The European Union has announced plans to set up a special, dedicated center to fight illegal online activity and protect its citizens from cybercrime.

Celia Malmstrom, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, told a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday that the center should be up and running by January 2013, and “will bring together some of Europe’s best brains in the field of cybercrime.”

The EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, wants the center to be based in The Hague in the Netherlands, alongside Europol, the pan-European police force, according to the Associated Press. It will mainly focus on credit card and bank fraud.

More from GlobalPost: Anonymous, joining Wikileaks, hacks into the big time

“As the online part of our everyday lives grows, organized crime is following suit,” Malstrom said, according to Reuters.

The Commission says over a third of the EU’s 500 million citizens use online banking, with an estimated $8 trillion changing hands globally in e-commerce each year.

“Up to 600,000 Facebook accounts are blocked very day, after various types of hacking attempts,” Malstrom said, citing a study that puts the total annual cost of cybercrime worldwide at $388 billion, according to the BBC.

“In 2009, over 6.7 million distinct bot infected computers were detected,” she observed.

The Commissioner said the center will become a focal point for European-wide initiatives, adding that besides providing logistical support for investigations into fraud, it will also pay attention to social networks, the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet, and cyber-attacks targeting “critical infrastructures.” 

More from GlobalPost: Your body parts, made to order