EU steps up battle against hackers and cybercrime

Sending alerts on breaches of Internet security will be explored as part of wider steps to combat hackers and cybercrime, the European Commission said today.

The EU executive is worried that users of the Internet and other electronic communications spend too little money on making systems resistant to identity theft, virus attacks, spam email and other malicious actions.

"In the past, hackers were motivated by a desire to show off whereas today, many threats come from criminal activities and are motivated by profit," EU Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement.

Only 5 to 13 percent of spending on information technology is on protecting networks and information, a level that is "alarmingly low", the Commission said.

"As the systems and networks continue to grow and become increasingly complex, we can expect a number of unprecedented security issues to emerge," the Commission added.

All players must actively preserve and protect their own security, it said.

An EU body, the European Network and Information Security Agency, was set up in Greece a year ago and will collect information about breaches of communications security across the 25-nation bloc to forge a "best practice" response.

"ENISA will also be asked to examine the feasibility of a multilingual information sharing and alert system," the Commission said.

Some security breaches can lead to financial losses such as when a retail website goes off-line because of a technical failure, or when fraud is committed using a credit card number intercepted during an insufficiently secure on-line transaction.

The Commission said it was essential to maintain user confidence in electronic communications otherwise people would shy away from using online services.

Later this year, the EU executive will come up with specific suggestions on how to tackle spam, which represents the bulk of emails, with separate suggestions on tackling cybercrime.

Regulatory measures could be introduced into existing EU telecoms and electronic communications laws now under review.

Commission spokesman Martin Selmayr said EU measures against spam had been successful but there would be coordination with other countries as 90 percent of spam in the EU came from outside the bloc.

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