Cyber-threats 'will be top concern'
The FBI's director has told internet security experts the agency needs the private sector to help combat what he believes is becoming America's number one threat.
At an annual gathering of cyber-security professionals, Robert Mueller reiterated his evidence before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in January that cyber-threats would surpass terrorism as the country's top concern.
"We are losing data, we are losing money, we are losing ideas and we are losing innovation," Mr Mueller said at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. "Together we must find a way to stop the bleeding."
The dangers posed by organised cyber-crime, rogue 'hacktivists' and computer breaches backed by foreign governments have become a focus for the FBI. Counter-terrorism is still the agency's top priority, but the agency has retooled to prepare for internet-based aggressors, Mr Mueller said.
Cyber-squads in every FBI field office now look for crimes ranging from mortgage and healthcare fraud to child exploitation and terror recruiting, he said.
Mr Mueller's comments came as government agencies and politicians wrangle over who should take the lead in defending against the digital enemies that have become a major talking point for national security officials this year.
The rising interest in cyber-defence could mean good business for many in the audience for Mr Mueller's speech. The director said private companies were often the first to see cyber-threats emerge.
Mr Mueller also sought to reassure businesses that fear the bad publicity they might face if they report to law enforcement that they were the victims of a cyber-attack. He said the agency would respect companies' privacy and work not to disrupt their daily operations.
"We do not want you to feel victimised a second time by one of our investigations," he said.
Mr Mueller said the time would soon come when no company could boast it was immune from digital incursions. He said: "There are only two types of companies: those that have been hacked, and those that will be."