The UK is set to sign up to a European Union cyber security plan, as ministers warned that more needed to be done to tackle the growing threats.

The plan comes after the government last year identified tackling cybercrime as one of its top national defence strategies, allocating £650 million to efforts over the next four years.

Home Office minister James Brokenshire yesterday told MPs that the directive was "not perfect". But he said cybercrime was a growing problem, and that by making laws similar across Europe it would make it harder for criminals to find countries with lenient rules.

From the UK's point of view, he said, the directive would ensure that the police influence in investigations could "reach" beyond national borders. 

Countries that sign up to the directive will have to provide central cyber security operations, which can be contacted by other states. These centres would be obliged to respond to requests from other states within eight hours.

Under the new rules, EU states will have to criminalise the development and sale of applications designed for cybercrime. Another offence is the interception of confidential data, as well as the use of botnets.

If a criminal organisation commits a crime under the directive, individuals involved could face over five years in jail, under the plans.