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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 12:55 GMT
EU hi-tech crime agency created
Screengrab of e-mail inbox full of Palyh virus, BBC
Computer viruses do not respect national borders
The European Union is setting up an agency to co-ordinate work to combat the rising tide of cybercrime.

The European Network and Information Security Agency will help educate the public about viruses, hacker attacks and other security problems.

It will also act as a co-ordinator for Europe-wide investigations into virus outbreaks or electronic attacks.

ENISA has a budget of 24.3m euros (17m), will start work in 2004 and will initially be based in Brussels.

Global problem

"Trust and security are crucial components in the information society and by establishing ENISA we continue the work to create the culture of security," said Erkki Liikanen, European Information Society Commissioner.

The agency is not expected to be Europe's cybercops but instead will help hi-tech crime units in member nations co-ordinate investigations.

The internet is worldwide and much of this computer crime is taking place outside the EU
Graham Cluley, Sophos
It will also collect and distribute information about the best way that businesses can protect their networks and staff from all kinds of computer security threats.

It is also intended to create teaching materials that can educate individuals about the risks of going online and help them avoid such things as having their identity stolen.

ENISA will also commission research into computer and network security.

Graham Cluley, senior security analyst from anti-virus firm Sophos, said the agency would be doing a good job if it can act as a single point of contact for Europe-wide work to tackle virus outbreaks and other computer crimes.

He said that experts on cybercrime in EU member nations were often hard to find.

"But," he said, "the internet is worldwide and much of this computer crime is taking place outside the EU."

The agency has only been given a charter to exist for four years after which its role will be re-assessed.

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