EU officially ranks cyber crime a top concern

Cyber crime is one of the top three security challenges that will guide the European Commission's security agenda for the next five years.

The commission on Tuesday adopted a new European Agenda, which sets out three “pressing” safety concerns: terrorism, organized crime and cyber crime.

The choice to include cyber is yet another in a long string of indications of how rapidly cyber threats have become a major concern for governments worldwide.

“Terrorism, organised crime, and cyber crime are complex and evolving security challenges that cross European borders,” said first Vice-President Frans Timmermans in a statement. “So it is time we Europeans work better and more closely together to make sure our citizens are safe.”

Countries can no longer deny the massive global safety threat and significant economic drain caused by cyberattacks.

Some estimate cyber crime costs the global economy over $400 billion annually. Terrorist groups are also bolstering their cyber skills, successfully hacking military, government and media outlet Twitter feeds.

But international law enforcement cooperation in tackling cyber crime is challenging.

The ubiquity of online anonymity software and ease of committing digital crime from afar has made evidence gathering difficult and exposed outdated concepts of jurisdiction.

For instance, many cyber crooks operate out of Eastern European countries and Asian nations that don’t have extradition treaties with the U.S.

The new agenda will focus on finding “ways to overcome obstacles to criminal investigations online, notably on issues of competent jurisdiction and rules on access to Internet-based evidence and information," according to an EU release.

International authorities did score a big takedown last year when they shuttered Silk Road, the top online black market. The market’s creator and operator, Ross Ulbricht, was convicted in February and could spend the rest of his life in jail.

Around the same time, international authorities also teamed up to close over 400 sites accused of selling illegal goods and services using the anonymous online network Tor.

The goal of the commission’s updated agenda is to get member states to continue such collaboration.

“Through this shared EU agenda, we want to get national authorities to cooperate more effectively, in a spirit of mutual trust,” Timmermans said.