NSA Chief Says Today’s Cyber Attacks Amount to ‘Greatest Transfer of Wealth in History’

The general in charge of the National Security Agency on Monday said the lack of national cybersecurity leglislation is costing us big and amounting to what he believes is “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.”

U.S. Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander urged politicians to stop stalling on approving a much-needed cybersecurity law – of which various versions currently are circulating in Congress. At the same time, he implored private companies to better cooperate with government agencies, many of whom remain mum because of privacy concerns.  

The general in charge of the National Security Agency on Monday said the lack of national cybersecurity leglislation is costing us big and amounting to what he believes is “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.”

U.S. Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander urged politicians to stop stalling on approving a much-needed cybersecurity law – of which various versions currently are circulating in Congress. At the same time, he implored private companies to better cooperate with government agencies, many of whom remain mum because of privacy concerns.  

“We can do the protection of civil liberties and privacy and cybersecurity as a nation. Not only that we can, but I believe it’s something that we must do,” Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

“So this cybersecurity legislation coming up is going to be very important to the future of this country,” he continued.

Alexander stressed that businesses, particularly Internet service providers and private companies, must communicate intrusions and suspicious network behavior in real time to government agencies if they are going to protect everyone from increasingly sophisticated threats, especially those posed by insecure mobile devices that are now the norm in U.S. enterprises.

“If the critical infrastructure community is being attack by something, we need them to tell us – at network speed,” Alexander said during a keynote address. “It doesn’t require the government to read their mail – or your mail – to do that.

“It has to be at network speed if you’re going to stop it.”

The Army general also outlined the huge financial toll companies now face.

“Symantec placed the cost of IP theft to United States companies at $250 billion a year,” he said. “Global cybercrime at $114 billion – nearly $388 billion when you factor in downtime. And McAfee estimates that $1 trillion was spent globally on remediation. And that’s our future disappearing in front of us.”

The Army general, who also heads the U.S. Cyber Command, used his speech to also quell rumors that a new, $2 billion data center in Bluffdale, Utah would collect Americans’ e-mails and Web usage histories.

“We don’t store data on U.S. citizens,” he said. “That’s baloney. … That’s ludicrous.”

However, “I’m not going to come out and say what we are doing” at NSA, he added. “That would be ludicrous, too.”

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