BRUSSELS, May 6 (Reuters) - A small European Union agency that monitors Internet security should have its term extended to see if and how it can deal with cyber attacks such as the one suffered by bloc member Estonia, EU lawmakers said on Tuesday. The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) was set up in 2004 and its term is due to end in March 2009.
EU states have suggested extending the agency’s term by three years, and the EU assembly’s industry committee signalled backing for this -- provided ENISA’s role is rethought.
Lawmakers said ENISA had no remit to deal with cyber attacks such as that experienced by Estonia last year, when the Baltic state accused Russia of causing government websites to crash.
“I cannot see that this body is capable of doing this. It was never given the role to do this. It’s more about information sharing, opening channels,” said Erika Mann, a German socialist.
The agency is based in Heraklion, Greece and has only 50 staff, half of whom are involved in administration.
Euro-MPs believe Internet infrastructure security must be protected more effectively as the EU economy depends increasingly on a trouble-free Web.
“A lot of staff are simply pushing papers, making reports and not doing what we need them to do. It’s something you might see in the Soviet Union. There is an increase in network security problems,” said Reino Paasilinna, a Finnish socialist.
German liberal Alexander Alvaro said an agency that guaranteed network security was needed.
“ENISA is not able to do all that is necessary to guarantee our security. Member states have throttled it. It only has 50 staff with half doing administration,” he said.
“We need a body with wider scope if we are serious about tackling cyber attacks,” Alvaro added.
Angelika Niebler, the German centre-right chair of the committee, said that “As a parliament we will have to put our heads together and think how ENISA should be organised or whether we can tackle network security in another way.”
“There is a majority position in committee, general support for a three-year extension so we will go for that. We will look at staff, allocation of tasks and structure,” Niebler said.
Endorsement by full parliament is due in June or July.
The European Commission had proposed a two-year extension, but a Commission official told the committee a three-year extension was acceptable and would encourage a needed in-depth debate on network security at European level.
Lawmakers said they rejected attempts by the Commission to fold ENISA into a new pan-EU telecoms regulatory body the Commission has proposed setting up. (Editing by Tim Pearce)