The challenges posed by cybercrime are different from conventional terror attacks because of the fast exchange of data and the vast international reach of computers, said Marco Gercke, a lecturer in computer law at University of Cologne. "Compared to regular terror attacks, it is much easier for the offenders to hide their identity."
Cybercrime experts from around the world will meet in Europe this week to discuss how governments should counter attacks aimed at crippling the Internet and hitting users with data loss, identity theft and fraud.
Taking the lead in the fight against computer-related crime is Estonia, the Internet-savvy Baltic country that came under a wave cyber attacks last year that paralyzed many of its businesses and institutions.
A conference by the Council of Europe in France on Tuesday and Wednesday will review the implementation of the Convention on Cybercrime, the only legally binding international treaty to address online crime.
It also will discuss new guidelines for cooperation between police and investigators and Internet service providers in the fight against crime in cyberspace.
Separately, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization"s summit in Romania beginning Wednesday will debate NATO"s own guidelines for coordinating national cyber defense efforts.
The Council of Europe convention -- which helps protect computer users against hackers and Internet fraud -- has been signed by 43 countries, mostly from Europe but also including the United States, Japan and Canada. The convention also covers offenses involving electronic evidence such as child sexual exploitation, organized crime and terrorism.
As the Internet becomes an essential part of daily life across the world, experts from police forces, as well as technology companies microsoft Corp. and eBay, Inc., will debate possible legal solutions to cyber-related crime and training possibilities at the Council of Europe workshop in Strasbourg, France.
The challenges posed by cybercrime are different from conventional terror attacks because of the fast exchange of data and the vast international reach of computers, said Marco Gercke, a lecturer in computer law at University of Cologne in Germany.
"Compared to regular terror attacks, it is much easier for the offenders to hide their identity. There are at least 10 unique challenges that make it very difficult to fight computer-related crime," said Gercke, one of the conference participants.
"The success rate of cybercrime is very high," he added.
Tiny Estonia has been active in battling cybercrime since attacks last year that it blamed on Russia seriously affected its economy because so much of it was dependent upon the Internet.
Russian officials deny any involvement in the cyber onslaught, which erupted during violent protests by ethnic Russians against the decision to move a Soviet-era Red Army monument out of downtown Tallinn, the Estonian capital.
As a result of the attacks, government institutions, mass media and private banks were forced to deny access to their Web sites to users outside Estonia. So Estonians who were traveling abroad, for instance, were suddenly unable to access their bank accounts.
The cyber warfare included computer-generated spam and so-called Distributed Denial-of-Service, or DDoS, attacks. The DDoS attacks involve a flood of computers all trying to connect to a single site at the same time, overwhelming the computer server that handles the traffic. Estonian authorities claimed they traced the attacks to Kremlin IP addresses.
Blocking this type of Web assault is difficult or impossible because the host server has no way of distinguishing between legitimate and bogus requests for access.
Estonia has set up a center to tackle computer-related crime in Tallinn and wants a global treaty on combating cyber attacks because in spite of the proliferation of online offenses, laws in many countries are inadequate, making the prosecution of cyber criminals difficult.