The European Commission today proposed the creation of a Europe-wide network and information security agency to act as a watchdog on online security.
The so-called European Network and Information Security Agency is to serve as an advice centre for the 15 member states on matters relating to cybersecurity, such as computer viruses
"The risk of cybercrime is rising," said Erkki Liikanen, commissioner for the information society. "Until now, viruses have largely been propagated by young individuals and amateurs, but in the post-September 11 era there is a risk of worse attacks."
Mobile internet connections, through mobile phones in particular, are expected to increase the risk of serious attacks, according to Liikanen.
The Commission has earmarked a €24.3m (£16m) budget for the agency over a five-year period, with an additional €9m (£5.9m) planned to include the 10 new member states, mainly from Central Europe, in May 04. The agency will provide assistance to member states' own cybercrime authorities, in particular their computer emergency response teams.
"The EU will benefit from increased co-ordination between member states to achieve a sufficiently high level of security in all member states," said Liikanen. "The internet is a wonderful tool but to be able to benefit from it you have to guarantee security."
The agency is due to start operating next January. The governments of the 15 member states will decide on a location later this year.