EU to open European Cybercrime Center


The new EU cybercrime fighting centre should be a milestone in fighting cybercrime, according to Europol.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 12/11/12


Cecilia Malmstroem, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, at a March 2012 news conference establishing a European Cybercrime Centre in Brussels. [AFP]

The European Cybercrime Centre, to officially open in January 2013 in Brussels, said the EU is a key cybercrime target "because of its advanced Internet infrastructure and increasingly Internet-based economies and payment systems."

According to the centre, "organised crime groups, terrorist groups and other criminals are quick to exploit the opportunities afforded by developments in technology."

Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said in March that "as our online part of our daily 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 co-operation in defending an internet that is free, open and safe."

The centre will open on the recommendation of the European Commission, endorsed by the EU Council of Ministers, and Europol in The Hague. It will be called EC3, as the center in fighting cybercrime in the EU.

Lisanne Kosters, Europol spokesperson, said that the centre will be implemented in stages.

"As planned, next year we will deliver the initial concept of our products and services," Kosters told SETimes.

The fight against cybercrime will not be handled by the centre only.

"The establishment of the centre is an important milestone; however, it is complementary to other key initiatives in the EU, on an EU level, and nationally, for example, the national cybercrime centers. The European Cybercrime Centre will contribute to enhancing the EU's capability to fight cybercrime," Kosters said.

The centre will offer operational, technical, and forensic support to EU member states, future oriented strategic analysis to improve cybercrime prevention, improvement in law enforcement, private sector co-operation in the EU, and in identifying examples of good practice and barriers to effective co-operation. Cybercrime is just as much a problem out of the EU, as governments worldwide are attempting to establish fighting mechanisms.

Filip Stojanovski, deputy director of Metamorphosis, an independent and non-profit foundation in Skopje, said the Macedonian Ministry of Interior set up a cybercrime unit some years ago and the Ministry of Information Society and Administration announced the formation of a national body to deal with computer incidents in August.

"However, cybercrime is often cross-border and regional initiatives against it are important," Stojanovski told SETimes. "The data shows that cybercrime is increasing."

Kosovo's OSCE Mission has been supporting the fight against cybercrime through direct assistance to the Kosovo police since November 2009. This assistance included support to police in building necessary capacities and mechanisms to fight this kind of modern crime.

"The mission provided training on cybercrime and advanced IT forensics to police to help them conduct investigations in this field. Topics included cyber investigation for organised crime at all levels: financial cybercrime [money laundering, credit card fraud, online banking fraud, skimming, economic and high-tech crime, phishing, ID theft, carding], industrial espionage, and other Internet-related crimes. This has led to establishment of the Kosovo Police Cybercrime Investigation Unit in 2011," Nikola Gaon, spokesperson for the mission, told SETimes.

In 2013, the mission plans to organise a regional conference on threats in organised crime that will focus on dealing with organised cybercrime and cybercrime groups.

"Cybercrime is a modern crime, developing at high speed worldwide, and Kosovo is no exception in this regard. Kosovo police thus needs to keep the pace with this crime and further specialise if it is to tackle cybercrime in a professional and timely manner. In addition, exchange of information between law enforcement agencies in the region is of great importance," Gaon said.

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Qemajl Osmani, who runs Visual Soft, a software company in Kosovo, said companies that do not take security measures represent another risk of its own. "There are a lot of cases when different private and state companies do not even use the minimal security and just think they are safe," Osmani told SETimes.

Neighboring Albania faced another serious case of cybercrime. In October the Albanian police arrested two persons in an operation nicknamed Badboys, identifying Kejdi Stambollxhiu and Ilir Lajthia, who hacked personal bank accounts in the EU and US, making illegal bank transfers from these accounts to their accounts. Reportedly, they stole millions of euros.

Albanian media reported that the investigators suspect that the arrested may be part of an international cybercrime network, reaching as far as the US, Bulgaria, and Kosovo.

According to the Norton Cybercrime report of last September, people lose some 290 billion euros annually due to cybercrime, and more than a million people become victims of cybercrime daily.

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