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Tackling the rapidly expanding black market in cyber crime is vital to maintaining consumer confidence and the multi billion dollar online economy, warns a report by the European Commission (EC).

‘Guarding against online risk: the battle against cybercrime,’ reads a blog post by the European Commission's vice-president for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip. He states that a cyber-attack happens every minute somewhere in the world, and that more than 150,000 viruses and other types of malicious code are currently in circulation. It goes on to say that at least a million people are victims of cyber crime daily, and that raising awareness of the risks and threats that such criminal activities pose is a shared responsibility.

To that end, October will see the launch of a worldwide cyber security advocacy campaign, coordinated by the EC, which will launch over 150 promotional events and activities to take place in 27 countries, with the goal of educating people about protection from digital criminals.

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"As our societies become ever more digitised, the online environment also becomes an increasingly tempting target for criminals and terrorists," states Ansip. "With more personal information stored digitally all the time, cybercrime is now a highly organised industry that is, in effect, also a global 'rent a hacker' black market. It offers massive profits to those who make a living from undermining the personal security and privacy of others," he goes on to say.

The post cites the 2014 cyber attack on Sony Pictures as an example of how cyber crime can cause "catastrophic market loss and reputational damage" and calls the rise of online fraud and criminal activity "an unfortunate reality -- its scale is alarming and the problem is growing."

As part of tackling that threat the EU is reforming its regulations on data protection -- a measure that Anslip calls the first step in establishing a long mooted digital single market, which aims to update copyright laws and harmonising regulations and removing barriers across all 28 EU countries.

"We cannot get the best out of the opportunities offered by digital tools and online networks if we do not trust them. People will hesitate to use e-services if they are not confident that they are reliable, safe and secure. They may actually choose not to use them at all," warns Ansip. "We have to stay one step ahead, to be ready to anticipate and respond to new security challenges."