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16th May 2021

Europol wants to host EU cyber crime centre

  • Europol already deals with cyber crime (Photo: © European Community, 2005)

The EU's joint policy body, Europol, is angling to host a new European cyber crime centre, with the European Commission due next year to decide where to put its new defence against the threat.

With Europol already dealing with forensics and investigation of online crimes, placing an EU cyber crime centre on its premises would be 'the natural choice', says its deputy director of operations.

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"We are in the business anyway, so this would be the natural choice. It's also more cost-efficient, because you wouldn't need to set up from scratch another EU agency," Troels Oerting, Europol's deputy chief in charge of operations and international co-operation told this website.

In cases ranging from online scams to child pornography videos, Europol experts can assist national police from one or several member states, but they cannot investigate on their own. From 2014 on, when new rules kick in, its staff may be given more powers to gather evidence in the virtual world.

"Cyber crime is different from offline criminality, you often have no idea where it comes from. So it would be very helpful to be able to trawl the Internet and make an initial assessment where the criminal activity originates from, then we can go ask police in that country to deal with them," Oerting says.

He also notes that financial cyber crime - such as fake bank webpages, VAT fraud and fake carbon permits traded online - is on the up.

"These attacks will only increase in the future, as our lives get more and more integrated to the Internet. How will this all work? What about the speed of mutual legal assistance, with these cumbersome and old-fashioned systems, where you have to send it to the ministry. New rules should be set up by this cyber centre for us to exchange information very rapidly, not to take days and weeks" he said.

A feasibility study on the scope, mandate and budget of such a centre is currently being drafted by the Rand Corporation, a security-oriented think tank with strong links to the US military.

Several options are being considered - Europol being one of them - depending on how broad the range of activities of such a centre will be and to what extent private companies are also involved.

The EU already has a cyber security expertise centre - Enisa - drafting reports and organising simulations of cyber attacks.

"I guess the cyber crime centre will have a broader scope. We will see that at the beginning of next year when the feasibility study is published," Oerting said.

After the study is published and after consulting industry and other group, the EU commission will then table a legislative proposal for creating the EU cyber centre.

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