The European Union is setting up an agency to combat computer viruses, online identity theft and other web-related crimes.

The European Network and Information Security Agency will be launched early next year after member states approved the move last week -- nine months after it was first proposed.

"As information flows freely across national borders, so will the network and information security problems," declared the European Commission.

The new agency will warn the public about viruses, aid the protection of computer systems and try to coordinate EU nations' efforts against online crime.

Viruses are an increasingly expensive problem. They caused an estimated record $32 billion (€27bn; £19bn) of damage in August alone.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff