E.U. cybercrime agency gets the go-ahead

European telecommunications and communications ministers gave final approval to the creation of a European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) Thursday.

The main role of ENISA will be to support the internal European Union (E.U.) market by facilitating and promoting increased co-operation and information exchange on issues of network and information security. The agency will begin working in January from a temporary headquarters in Brussels.

The ministers will choose a permanent residence for the agency at a later date. The organization’s initial 33 million euros (US$39 million) budget will fund it for the first five years of operation.

The E.U. commissioner for the internal market, Erkki Liikanen, said he was pleased that both the European Parliament and ministers from the member states reached a political agreement on creation of the agency.

The European Parliament gave its support to the initiative on Wednesday.

“Trust and security are crucial components in the information society and by establishing ENISA we continue the work to create a culture of security,” Liikanen said, in a statement.

As information flows freely across national borders, so will the network and information security problems, the Commission, the E.U.’s executive body, said.

“Until today there has been no systematic cross-border co-operation or information exchange between the EU Member States. The individual Member States are at very different stages in their work and have to some extent chosen varying approaches. This is the challenge that the ENISA is set up to meet,” the Commission added, in a statement.

ENISA will have three main functions. It will advise member states and the Commission on security issues and help co-ordinate activities to ensure a high level of network and information security within the community. This includes analyzing information on current and emergent risks in Europe to support EU policy development as well as national initiatives.

The agency will also address the need for increased awareness on these issues and help inform citizens, businesses and administrations of the risks using the Internet and information systems and how to protect themselves against the threats.

Finally, ENISA will handle tasks involving risk assessment and management and will follow research and standardization development efforts in close collaboration with the technology industry.

Telecom firms urged that ENISA must work closely with the private sector to be effective.

“Close public-private co-operation is crucial if the E.U.’s forthcoming European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) is to get off the ground properly,” said the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association, a trade group representing former state telecom monopolies, in a statement.