Europe raising bar on security, privacy

eEurope Action Plan

As U.S. federal agencies know, if different governments use incompatible policies and technology, creating an electronic government will be impossible.

That's a particular problem for the 15-nation European Union. One possible solution is the eEurope initiative, a key goal of which is to raise the bar for security and privacy to ensure that European citizens and businesses trust the information economy, said Erkki Liikanen, European commissioner for enterprise and information society.

The European Commission, the executive administration of the European Union, approved the eEurope Action Plan in June.

A goal of the program is to ensure that laws are in place throughout the EU to allow companies to continue to develop new security technologies. The group also wants EU countries — and partner countries such as the United States — to use technologies that can provide a specific level of security, Liikanen said.

The EU issued its Directive on a Community Framework for Electronic Signatures in December, detailing the required minimum levels of security for electronic signatures and digital certificates.

The directive splits the security technology into two levels:

* High-security "qualified" certificates must meet higher levels of assurance and trust.

* Standard electronic signatures can be used for applications that need less user information.

Internally, U.S. agencies have outlined similar guidelines for the assurance levels needed for electronic signatures and digital certificates used for specific applications. But although there has been little work on a governmentwide standard similar to the EU directive, the United States is one of the 10 countries partnered to accept the directive's minimum standards, Liikanen said.

The European Commission is also developing new guidelines stating the EU's priorities on addressing cybercrime. International cooperation and alignment of criminal laws is the biggest challenges to tracking down cybercriminals across country borders, and one that the Justice Department has been working on with other nations in the G8.

Looking to capitalize on the partnerships already being formed within the EU, the main focus of the European Commission's policy will be reinforcing cooperation between the current 15 member states, Liikanen said.

"The European Union can present a united front and set an example at the international level," he said.

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