San Francisco: The director of the FBI told an annual gathering of cyber-security professionals on Thursday that the agency needs the private sector to help combat what he believes is becoming the nation`s No. 1 threat.
FBI Director Robert Mueller reiterated his testimony 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," Mueller said at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. "Together we must find a way to stop the bleeding."
The dangers posed by organized cyber-crime, rogue hacktivists and computer breaches backed by foreign governments have become a focus for the FBI.
Counterterrorism is still the agency`s top priority, but the agency has retooled to prepare for Internet-based aggressors, Mueller said. Cyber-squads in every FBI field office now monitor for crimes ranging from mortgage and health care fraud to child exploitation and terror recruiting, he said.
Mueller`s comments came as federal agencies and lawmakers 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-defense could mean good business for many in the audience for Mueller`s speech. The director said private companies often are the first to see cyber-threats emerge.
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 victimized a second time by one of our investigations," he said.
Mueller said the time would soon come when no company could boast it was immune from digital incursions: "There are only two types of companies: Those that have been hacked, and those that will be."