The US government is seeking the help of the IT industry to help secure the internet from online criminals and foreign governments.
Speaking at the 2009 RSA conference in San Francisco, director of the National Security Agency (NSA) lieutenant general Keith Alexander called on the security industry and its clients to help keep the internet secure.
“It's a big job and we need partnership with others,” he told delegates.
“The Department of Homeland Security has a big role and we also need to talk about your role as security vendors as well as academia and our allies.”
He said that the internet had become a single unified tool for government, citizens and business and it was increasingly under attack. The attacks on Estonia provided a case in point, he said, where “cybercrime became cyberwar”, adding that there is now terrorist activity on more than 4,000 web sites.
To date, more than 100 foreign governments have now tried to hack the US government, Alexander claimed, adding that in 1996 a Chinese military official reportedly said that the Red Army was actively targeting the US banking system so that in the event of war they could bring down the US economy.
The scale of threat meant the government has to look to industry to help out in protecting the internet, he said. This means helping the NSA pinpoint attack vectors, and also sharing information on threats.
Companies around the world should share information on attacks and use it to minimise their effect. In return they would get increased protection from attacks spotted by others, Alexander argued.
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