Feature - Common strategy needed against cybercrime
12.10.2012, 14:14 (CET)
The more the internet evolves, the more criminal activities in the digital environment develop. The increase in the number of users has led to increasing profits for criminal activities on the internet, so called cybercrime. The Cyprus Presidency organises a seminar titled “Best Practices in Cooperation between EU Member States against Cybercrime”, on October 15 and 16, 2012.

Due to the fact that it is a relatively new term, cybercrime does not have a clear definition in all countries. Cyprus Police Inspector Marcos Nicolettis, who is responsible for organising the seminar, explains that “cybercrime could be defined as criminal acts which are committed by using electronic communications networks and information systems or against such networks and systems and are punishable by law”.

Harassment of children

According to Mr Nicolettis, cybercrime is evolving and has reached alarming proportions. “As economies and payment systems become more and more Internet-based, cybercriminals commit various crimes such as identity and data theft and fraud. Cybercrime has become a significant multi-million sector of the underground economy and is affecting governments, individuals and businesses”, he points out.

Sexual harassment and exploitation of children is one of the most widespread and condemnable forms of cybercrime. “Crimes of this nature are connected to the increase in the numbers of internet users and the update they get on these issues”, Mr Nicolettis indicates.

He also emphasizes the importance of prevention of the phenomenon through informing families and educating children on the dangers they are exposed to in the digital environment. “This phenomenon, at least statistically according to the incidents being reported to the Police, seems to be less in 2011 and this year in the EU. This may be due to the information campaigns being made in schools for prevention purposes”, he adds.

Tackling the issue

In 2009 the European Union developed a road map (formally known as the Stockholm Programme) on its work in justice, freedom and security fields for the period 2010-2014. Policies and legislations on internet security are included in the Stockholm Programme. However, as Mr Nicolettis suggests, the EU needs to promote policies which will allow faster reaction in cases of cybercrime. Towards this end, the Cyprus Presidency supports the ratification of the Council of Europe’s Cybercrime Convention of 2001. “This Convention has the potential to become the legal framework of reference for fighting cyber-crime at a global level”, he says.

Furthermore, Mr Nicolettis considers that measures need to be taken in the field of cooperation and common tackling of the phenomenon, since cybercrime continuously evolves and new methods are discovered. “The different systems of jurisdiction, the various legislative systems and procedures concerning the collection and maintenance of evidence need to be improved to the maximum and the procedures of confrontation need to be faster. The adoption of a Common Legislative Frame for all EU Member States will constitute a significant tool for tackling cybercrime”, he underlines.

“Internet users have responsibilities”

Mr Nicolettis calls all internet users to be careful, not to open emails and links from unknown sources and not to visit websites which are considered dangerous. “Users must be updated on new threats and risks on the internet, through various valid websites and announcements that are released from time to time. Users need to understand that they have responsibilities and obligations on the net. They should not behave carelessly, without doing some research on the authenticity of the elements they are viewing”, he highlights.

The Cypriot Police Inspector wishes the forthcoming seminar will provide a ready set of conclusions with the common views of the electronic crime units of EU Member States, regarding the best practices for cooperation in tackling cybercrime. The conclusions will be based upon a questionnaire the Cyprus Presidency had previously sent to all Member States. The answers given will be analysed and discussed during the seminar, with the participation of delegates from the FBI, EUROPOL, the European Commission and other organisations.

The results will be announced at the Law Enforcement Working Party on November 13-14 in Brussels and the questionnaire’s findings will constitute a major document for the strategy against cybercrime.