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EU to stengthen its cybersecurity watchdog

Cybercrime is worth more than the international drugs trade, says Commissioner Neelie Kroes

A push by European authorities to strengthen the European Union's cybersecurity watchdog has been given a green light by parliamentarians.

ENISA, the European Network and Information Security Agency, was set up in 2004 to ensure a "high and effective level of network information security" within the E.U. Its current mandate is due to expire in September 2013, but a vote in the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee agreed to extend it until 2020.

The new proposal would also require ENISA to help set up a full-scale European Union Computer Emergency Response Team (EU CERT), to counter cyberattacks against E.U. institutions, bodies and agencies, as well as providing support to member states in the event of incidents, attacks or disruptions on networks.

Part of ENISA's role is to help private stakeholders develop their capabilities and preparedness to prevent, detect and respond to network and information security problems and incidents.

Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes put forward the proposal, which was approved by a 52-3 vote, as part of her strategy to combat cybercrime. Although this has not been a traditional priority or competence of the Commission in the past, cybercrime may now be bigger business than the global drugs trade said Kroes.

"Internet attacks are ever more a threat to our well-being, being used as a new instrument for political and economic disruption, espionage, and potentially outright attacks instigated by terrorist groups or foreign governments. Internet should not left to the military or to inter-state treaties -- as though it were just another arena in which to exercise national power," said Kroes.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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