A European Cybercrime Centre

A European Cybercrime Centre, dubbed "EC3", will be established within Europol at the Hague, on an initiative from the European Commission. It is scheduled to be operational by January next year.

Cybercrime is seen as a a high-profit, low-risk form of criminal activity which is becoming increasingly common and damaging, especially at a time of continued economic uncertainty. A recent study estimated that online criminal activity costs $ 388 billion each year worldwide.

Maintaining citizens' and businesses' confidence in secure online communication and trade has therefore never been more vital.

Scope and objectives

The proposal for establishing the European Cybercrime Centre (the EC3) is contained in a recent Commission Communication on responding to borderless online crime. The Communication notes that there are still several obstacles to the effective investigation of cybercrime and prosecution of offenders at European level, such as insufficient intelligence sharing, technical difficulties in tracing the origins of cybercrime and inconsistent cooperation with other stakeholders responsible for cybersecurity.

Having conducted a feasibility study on the creation of such a Centre, the Commission believes that the EC3 would address these gaps and contribute to the safeguarding of an open internet and the legitimate digital economy, and to the protection of Europe's online citizens and businesses.

The Centre would be part of Europol, and act as the focal point in the fight against cybercrime in the EU. In order to provide added value and respect the principle of subsidiarity, the EC3 would focus on the following major strands of online crime:
• Cybercrimes committed by organised criminal groups
• Cybercrimes causing serious harm to their victims, such as online child sexual exploitation
• Cybercrimes affecting critical infrastructure and information systems in the EU 
Functions

The Communication identifies four key functions of the EC3.

 A focal point for European cybercrime information 
The Centre would aim facilitate information-sharing between individuals and institutions in charge of cyber-security concerning online criminal activities, methods and suspects. The EC3 would create links between law enforcement authorities, the Computer Emergency Response Team and private sector Information Communication Technology (ICT) security specialists.

Fundamentally, thee Commissions also believes that having an information focal point would improve cybercrime reporting and information sharing at the EU level.

Pool European cybercrime expertise

The Centre would assist Member States with expertise and training to combat online criminal activities. An emphasis would be put on law enforcement. Training would range from in-depth technical expertise to broader capacity building for police officers, prosecutors and judges.

A cybercrime desk would be created to improve the exchange of information and to respond to queries from national and international law enforcement institutions, the judiciary, the private sector and civil society organisations. More specifically, the EC3 would support the activities of cybercrime expert groups, including the European Union Cybercrime Task Force, in combating online child sexual exploitation at the national level.

Support Member State cybercrime investigations

The Centre would provide operational support to Member State cybercrime investigations, for instance, on the setting up of cybercrime Joint Investigations Teams. It would also provide forensic assistance and encryption expertise for crime investigations where needed.

Become the collective voice of European cybercrime investigators
 
The Commission wants the Centre to be seen as the collective voice of European cybercrime investigators in discussions with private sector companies, research institutions, user’s associations and civil society organisations. The EC3 would also be the natural interface of Interpol's cybercrime activities and other international police cybercrime units.

The Centre would also be involved in the delivery of public awareness campaigns, updating them in response to changes in cybercrime, with a view to encouraging prudent and safe online behaviour.

Cooperation

A major goal of the Centre is to ensure better coordination between Member States, European agencies and other actors, such as Eurojust, CEPOL, ENISA and CERT-EU, and international partners. A key aim after all is to assist Member States in the fight against cybercrime. The EC3's cybercrime helpdesk and deliverables, such as more focused threat analysis and better informed operational support, should benefit cybercrime investigators across Europe.

The Commission believes that the EC3 should, in partnership with Interpol and strategic partners around the globe, also strive to improve coordinated responses in the fight against cybercrime and ensure that law enforcement concerns are taken into account in the further development of cyberspace.

Building trust and confidence between the private sector and law enforcement authorities is also of the utmost importance in the fight against cybercrime. The EC3 should therefore aid private sector companies with substantial digital assets, such as banks and online retailers, to fight and better protect against cybercrime and to minimise vulnerabilities in developing technologies.

Implementation

The Commission plans to assess what would be needed to create an EC3 implementation team, which would be responsible for drafting the Centre’s terms of reference and its organisational structure.

A training needs analysis would then be conducted, which would allow for the creation of a basic cybercrime training course open to members of the criminal justice system. The current training activities of Europol, CEPOL and the European Cybercrime Training and Education Group could be assessed and streamlined under the coordination of the EC3 and its Programme Board.

The Commission will also assess human and financial resources needed for the development of the Centre under the current and future EU financial framework. This assessment will inform the further development of the EC3.