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19th Jan 2020

EU seeks US help to fight cyber criminals

  • Lute: 'Homeland security is to create a safe, secure, resilient place where the American way of life can thrive' (Photo: chiara marra)

The EU wants to work closer with the United States' department of Homeland Security and the FBI to help plug gaps on protection against cyber crime - a sector worth €388 billion a year in illegal revenue worldwide.

"To overcome this growing global threat, EU-US cooperation is not a choice, but a necessity," EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told US officials and policy experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington on Wednesday (2 May).

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"I am convinced that in the coming months and years we will be able to report back to our citizens on many more successful joint operations between FBI and Europol," she added, citing an EU-US working group, launched in November 2010, on cyber-security and cyber crime as an example.

The working group is headed by Malmstrom and includes the US secretary of homeland security Janet Napolitano. Both intend to launch an EU-US cyber exercise in 2014.

The commission had already announced its intention to establish a new cyber crime centre in Europol, in The Hague, early next year. The centre will be tasked to address online child exploitation and attacks against government infrastructure. But Malmstrom added that the cyber centre would also help member states lagging in cyber security to improve abilities.

She added, separately, that Interpol is in the planning stages of creating its own cyber crime facility in Singapore.

Meanwhile, the commission is updating its 2010 directive on attacks against information systems. The proposals seek to criminalise the use, production and sale of tools - also know as botnets - used to commit attacks against information systems. The European Parliament and member states are currently debating the proposals.

"We hope to agree on a proposal before the summer to bring EU legislation up to date, including measures to address the rising threat from botnets," Malmstrom said.

The EU is pressing countries to ratify the Council of Europe's Budapest Convention, she explained. The convention is a 2004 international treaty that aims to create a common criminal policy against cyber-villains. But the Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland, Poland and Sweden have yet to sign up.

The Budapest convention, along with input from foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, is to help shape an EU joint-strategy on cyber crime by the end of year. The strategy requires an EU approach and cannot rely solely on individual member states, the commission said in April.

Speaking alongside Malmstrom, the deputy secretary of the US department of homeland security Jane Holl Lute described the EU as its most important partner on cyber crime.

Lute said the US strategy for cyber security entails protecting its economy, its networks, expanding its law enforcement capacity and getting governments involved in so-called global Internet governance.

"Cyberspace is the endoskeleton of modern life," said Lute, who sees the role of homeland security as a balance between those who want no government involvement in the Internet and those who want the government to enforce strict legislation.

"Homeland security is to create a safe, secure, resilient place where the American way of life can thrive," she added.

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