As part of an effort to raise the level of online security in the European Union, the EC announced today it has begun work on a computer hacking law.

Other related measures proposed by the EC, the EU's executive body, include fighting computer viruses by ensuring more effective sharing of European warning and information systems, a publicity campaign to raise awareness of online security among European citizens, and helping to strengthen co-operation between national computer emergency response teams, or Certs.

Encouraging development of a common platform for encryption systems is also part of the EC's plan, according to an official statement. National governments should lead by example, it said.

"If governments can show the way, using interoperable [usable by any system] security solutions in 'e-government', this will help both individuals and businesses to take security of networks seriously," the EC said.

"Today we are launching a debate that will result in more concrete measures being proposed towards the end of the year," said Per Haugaard, spokesman on information society issues at the EC. However he couldn't say what form the anti-hacking legislation will take.

The EC wants to set up a central body to fight the spread of computer viruses, Haugaard said. "There might be a need for a central body to co-ordinate the work of the Certs. This is one proposal we want to open up for comment."