It is estimated that, worldwide, more than one million people become victims of cybercrime every day. The cost of cybercrime could reach an overall total of USD 388 billion worldwide.
The European Commission proposed to establish a European Cybercrime Centre to help protect European citizens and businesses against these mounting cyber-threats. The centre will be established within the European Police Office, Europol in The Hague (The Netherlands).
The centre will be the European focal point in fighting cybercrime and will focus on illegal online activities carried out by organised crime groups, particularly those generating large criminal profits, such as online fraud involving credit cards and bank credentials.
The EU experts will also work on preventing cybercrimes affecting e-banking and online booking activities, thus increasing e-consumers trust. A focus of the European Cybercrime Centre will be to protect social network profiles from e-crime infiltration and will help the fight against online identity theft. It will also focus on cybercrimes which cause serious harm to their victims, such as online child sexual exploitation and cyber-attacks affecting critical infrastructure and information systems in the Union.
"Millions of Europeans use the Internet for home banking, online shopping and planning holidays, or to stay in touch with family and friends via online social networks. But as the online part of our everyday lives grows, organised crime is following suit - and these crimes affect each and every one of us," said Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs.
"We can't let cybercriminals disrupt our digital lives. A European Cybercrime Centre within Europol will become a hub for cooperation in defending an internet that is free, open and safe."
By 2011, nearly three quarters (73 percent) of European households had Internet access at home and in 2010 over one third of EU citizens (36 percent) were banking online. Eighty percent of young Europeans connect through online social networks and approximately USD 8 trillion exchanges hands globally each year in e-commerce.
Consequently, cybercrime is on the rise and cyber-criminals have created a profitable market around their illegal activities where credit card details can be sold between organised crime groups for as little as €1 per card, a counterfeited physical credit card for around €140 and bank credentials for as little as €60.
Cybercrimes are also targeting social media: up to 600 000 Facebook accounts are blocked every day, after various types of hacking attempts and over 6 700 000 distinct bot-infected computers were detected in 2009.
The European centre will warn EU Member States of major cybercrime threats and alert them of weaknesses in their online defences. It will identify organised cyber-criminal networks and prominent offenders in cyberspace. It will provide operational support in concrete investigations, be it with forensic assistance or by helping to set up cybercrime Joint Investigation Teams.
To achieve its tasks and to better support cybercrime investigators, prosecutors and judges in the Member States, the Centre will fuse information from open sources, private industry, police and academia.
The new Centre will also serve as a knowledge base for national police in the Member States and it will pool European cybercrime expertise and training efforts. It will be able to respond to queries from cybercrime investigators, prosecutors and judges as well as the private sector on specific technical and forensic issues.
The Centre will serve as a platform for European cybercrime investigators, where they can have a collective voice in discussions with the IT industry, other private sector companies, the research community, users' associations and civil society organisations. Finally, the Centre is to become the natural partner for wider international partners and initiatives in the field of cybercrime.
The centre is expected to start operations in January of next year.