The EC is planning to create a European cybercrime centre to help protect the continent's citizens and businesses from a threat that claims one million victims around the world every day.
Based within Europol in The Hague, the centre will open next January - if adopted - and be the European focal point in fighting cybercrime, focusing on issues like card and online banking fraud carried out by organised gangs.
Experts will also work on preventing cybercrimes affecting e-banking and online booking activities, in a bid to improve 'e-consumer' trust, says the Commission. Other high-profile areas covered by the centre will be the protection of social network profiles to guard against online identity theft, child sexual exploitation and attacks affecting critical infrastructure and information systems in the Union.
Explaining the thinking behind the centre, the EC says that around three quarters of European households now have Internet access at home and more than a third of citizens bank online. Consequently, cybercrime is on the rise and crooks have created a profitable underground market where card details can be sold between gangs for as little as EUR1 a piece.
The base will warn EU member states of major cybercrime threats and alert them of weaknesses in their online defences as well as identify organised networks. In addition, its staff will provide operational support in concrete investigations, be it with forensic assistance or by helping to set up joint investigation teams.
The new centre will also serve as a knowledge base for national police and 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.
Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for home affairs, says: "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. 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."