The European Commission has announced plans to ‘strengthen’ its response to cyber-attacks, including incidents involving cryptocurrency cybercrime.
The Commission made this announcement less than a week after EU President Jean-Claude Juncker devoted a portion of his State of the Union Address to confronting the increasing prevalence of cyber-attacks. In this speech, he announced the creation of a pan-European cybersecurity agency to combat the swelling number of threats:
In the past three years, we have made progress in keeping Europeans safe online. But Europe is still not well equipped when it comes to cyber-attacks. This is why, today, the Commission is proposing new tools, including a European Cybersecurity Agency, to help defend us against such attacks.
The Commission notes that ransomware attacks have increased 300% within the past three years alone and predicts the total economic impact of cybercrime will have risen five-fold between 2013 and 2019.
In the announcement, the Commission explains that it will expand the scope of cyber offenses such as fraud to include all monetary transactions, including those involving cryptocurrency [formatting retained from original]:
The proposed Directive will strengthen the ability of law enforcement authorities to tackle this form of crime by expanding the scope of the offences related to information systems to all payment transactions, including transactions through virtual currencies. The law will also introduce common rules on the level of penalties and clarify the scope of Member States’ jurisdiction in such offences.
The ramp-up in enforcement comes shortly after the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority (FINMA)–the chief financial watchdog within the country–shut down E-Coin, a fake cryptocurrency scam that had fraudulently obtained more than $4 million from unsuspecting investors. FINMA also revealed it has placed 3 more firms within the crypto space on a warning list and is conducting investigations into 11 more projects.
Within the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been stepping up enforcement of alleged cryptocurrency cybercrime as well. In a recent roundtable discussion, several SEC executives revealed that that initial coin offerings (ICOs) have become a focus for the agency as it seeks to prevent investors from fraud. To that end, the SEC recently pressured Protostarr to cancel its ICO and issued temporary suspensions to several publicly-traded bitcoin firms.