The recent attacks against Estonia's computer systems were cited as one of the reasons why the European Union countries should work more closely to fight cybercrime, said European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs Franco Frattini.

Similarly, the existence of two known criminal gangs operating in the EU and believed to have clocked up profits in excess of US$100 million each from Internet fraud is another reason the European Commission -- the EU's executive body -- has decided to take action, the commissioner said in a press conference.

Estonia was temporarily crippled by the attack. Estonian officials said some of the attacks on the country's government websites had been traced to Russian government servers.

The development of the Internet and other information systems has opened many new possibilities for criminals, said the Commission.

"Legislation and operational law enforcement have obvious difficulties in keeping pace," it said. The Commission added that the cross-border character of these threats "further underlines the need for strengthened international cooperation and coordination," not only among national authorities but with countries outside the E.U.

The Commission will host a cybercrime conference in Brussels in November. "The aim, simply, is the eradication of cybercrime," Frattini said.

"In Estonia there were 128 separate attacks during the first two weeks of May," Frattini said. "These were coordinated attacks against a state - not just a ministry. In situations like this we need to cooperate and we need to develop a strategy for prevention," he added.

The EU has invited NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, to help Estonia rebuild its damaged information infrastructure and protect it against further attacks, the commissioner said.

NATO, more used to fighting insurgents in Afghanistan, is likely to be involved more closely in computer security issues in the future, Frattini said.

The two Internet fraud gangs are under investigation in the UK and in other EU countries but lack of cooperation among authorities in different countries is hampering the probes, Frattini said. He declined to name the other countries involved in the investigations.

In addition to fraud, European Internet users are also exposed to child pornography and terrorism, he added.

The Commission's aim is to improve coordination among the EU countries, increase the amount of intelligence sharing between national law enforcement authorities and pass laws when necessary to outlaw dangerous conduct.

Frattini pointed out that instructions to build a bomb are readily available and legal in many EUcountries.

"We are ready to criminalise the publishing of instructions for bomb making on the Internet across the EU so that law authorities can disconnect these websites. At the moment it isn't possible to do that in all countries," he said.