EU cyber directive 'nearly finished'
By Benjamin Fox
The EU executive will release a draft directive on cyber security in 2013, in the latest indication that the bloc is moving towards a harmonised online rulebook.
The bill is likely to propose the creation of a co-operation mechanism to prevent and counter cross-border cyber incidents and a minimum standard of cyber-preparedness at national level.
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The new legislation is being piloted by EU digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes, who announced the plans in a paper on 'Digital priorities for 2013-14' published on Wednesday (18 December).
A commission official indicated that the directive would be released at the end of January, with the draft text currently making its way through several commission departments.
Kroes' spokesperson Ryan Heath told EUobserver that the legislation was "nearly finished." He added that the text was about "recognising that digital freedoms and digital security go hand-in-hand – they have to be balanced and dealt with together."
MEPs are also likely to back EU minimum standards for online security. A non-binding report adopted by parliament in June called on member states to set up national contingency plans in the event of an attack, alongside EU legislation criminalising cyber attacks, including online fraud. Romanian centre-left Ivailo Kalfin, who drafted the report, said that "Europe has to have a single voice on cyber-security."
A new regime of cyber-security would be implemented by the European Cybercrime Centre, which will start work in January. The centre, which will be run out of Europol's headquarters in The Hague, has been tasked with co-ordinating national cyber-crime authorities and training national cyber-security experts. It will also work with the US Department of Justice to combat online child sex abuse.
Kroes also called on the EU to up its game in utilising new technologies such as high speed internet and cloud computing.
Speaking to reporters she warned that the EU "is not positioning itself well enough to benefit from digital developments."
Moreover, at a time when over 20% of European's under-25s are out of work, the EU executive's paper claims that "by 2015, 700,000 to 1 million high-quality ICT jobs will not be filled".
However, she added that "if (it was) not for the digital economy then the EU would be in an even deeper recession"
She went on to say that "if e-commerce were to grow to 15% of the total retail sector and Single Market barriers were eliminated, it is estimated that total consumer welfare gains would be around €204 billion, equivalent to 1.7% of EU GDP."
According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, 40% of users are concerned about their personal data being compromised online, and 38% are worried about the security of online payments.
Meanwhile, a poll in July by the same group revealed that one in ten Europeans had been victims of data theft. Online security firm McAfee estimates that cyber-crime cost businesses $750bn (€600bn) in lost income across the world in 2011.