France and Ireland are hoping the European Commission will back a plan to create an academically accredited cybercrime training program for law enforcement.

The proposal calls for initially creating two training centers that would focus on defining topics for masters and doctoral theses as well as promoting cybercrime as a formal research area, according to a 55-page paper outlining the current problems in cybercrime education.

The program is called 2CENTRE (Cybercrime Centres of Excellence Network for Training, Research and Education). The first two centers, due to begin operations next year, will be located at University College Dublin and Universite Technologique de Troys in France.

Microsoft is backing the plan, which will be discussed at the Council of Europe's International Conference on Cybercrime on Tuesday and Wednesday in Strasbourg, France.

University College Dublin will offer a pilot course, Malware and Reverse Engineering, this summer with Microsoft. Microsoft will supply expertise in areas such as forensic analysis of the Windows Vista operating system, said Tim Cranton, associate general counsel for the company's Worldwide Internet Safety Programs.

Other courses to be developed include preserving electronic evidence, investigation techniques for online crime, capturing evidence of covert activity and managing intelligence-led operations.

The centers are intended to tackle several problems facing private industry and law enforcement in fighting cybercrime.

One of those issues is the lack of recognised international standards for digital forensics or cybercime investigations, according to the paper.

Also, law enforcement has been hampered by a lack of training. Europol, a European law enforcement organisation established in 1992, holds just one training course on cybercrime annually. Interpol holds just two a year, the paper said.

"Law enforcement does not have the capacity to develop internally all the expertise which is required," the paper said.

Private industry has been helpful, but the efforts have not been coordinated with other law enforcement programs. "The effect of this is that individual fragmented efforts provide little measurable long-term benefit," the paper said.

University College Dublin has been in the forefront of cybercrime training. The school offers a master's degree in forensic computing and cybercrime investigation that is open only to law enforcement. More than 60 law enforcement officials from 15 countries have either completed or are now doing courses. The program is offered online.

Other universities have added forensic computing courses over the last few years, but those courses haven't provided the right knowledge and skills for students to get law enforcement jobs, the paper said.

Some universities have admitted they created the courses to generate more revenue and attract more students of the "CSI generation," referring to the popular TV crime show, the paper said.

It's hoped that eventually other universities will want to join 2CENTRE, which will be overseen by an advisory board to ensure consistency.

Funding for the centers could come from European Commission programs, industry or other institutional resources, the paper said. Also, the centers would accept donations of hardware and software and the training expertise of skilled cybercrime professionals.