EU countries have agreed on harsher punishments against hackers who launch cyber attacks similar to those seen in recent weeks against the French government, European institutions and Citigroup, Reuters reports.
Under the new rules, hackers would face a sentence of at least five years if found guilty of causing serious damage to IT systems. Attackers who use botnets or engage in identity theft would also be impacted by tougher penalties.
The EU member nations have also decided to beef up their law enforcement cooperation by creating a cyber crime unit that could fall under Europol, which in the future could lend support to member states in the event of cyber incidents, Hungary’s Justice and Public Administration Minister Tibor Navracsics told reporters after meeting his counterparts in Luxembourg.
The EU Commission announced last week the launch of a Computer Emergency Response pre-configuration Team, which will work to counter the threat of cyber attacks against EU institutions, bodies and agencies.
“Cyber attacks are a very real and ever-increasing threat,” said Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda. “Whether against individual countries, companies or most recently against the European Commission, they can paralyze key infrastructure and cause huge long-term damage. Setting up this CERT pre-configuration team is a further demonstration of how seriously the EU institutions take the cybersecurity threat.”