By Alina Selyukh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A day after U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on ways to better defend against cyber attacks, administration officials told a packed audience of industry insiders that no government agency can tackle the threat alone.
The event on Wednesday at the U.S. Department of Commerce kicked off what is likely to be a lengthy new effort to upgrade U.S. defenses against cyber attacks. A previous effort stalled in Congress last year.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers of Michigan reintroduced his cyber-security bill on Wednesday with a pledge there would be no schism with the White House over the issue. Obama threatened to veto the bill in 2012, citing lax safeguards for privacy and confidentiality.
The promises of collaboration echoed a rising urgency within the administration, along with many in private industry, who warn that the United States is increasingly vulnerable to a crippling cyber attack.
Relentless efforts to hack the country's banks, power grid and other critical infrastructure, paired with instances of disruptive attacks abroad, pose a national security threat, experts warn.
The U.S. Federal Reserve is the latest institution to have its computer systems breached by hackers, an incident now the subject of a criminal probe by the FBI.
"Dangerous capabilities are out there, the bad people are out there and all that has to happen is someone decides they're finally going to step over the threshold and really cross the line of damage," Michael Chertoff, former secretary of homeland security, said on the sidelines of Wednesday's event.
The issue jumped to national prominence on Tuesday when Obama unveiled his executive order in the State of the Union address. "We cannot look back years from now and wonder why we did nothing in the face of real threats to our security and our economy," Obama said.
The order, which does not have the same power as law, seeks to make it easier for the government to warn private companies of cyber threats and to set up a system of voluntary cyber-security standards.
'WE WILL NEED YOUR HELP'
Industry experts viewed the order as a good step after last year's failed attempts to pass a cyber law, but some noted its lack of teeth in enforcing actual change. Continued...