The UK and US governments have committed themselves to preserving the openness of the internet at the London Conference on Cyberspace.
"In our quest for security, we cannot sacrifice the openness that makes possible all the benefits that the internet brings," said US vice president Joe Biden, speaking by video link.
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Echoing these principles, UK prime minister David Cameron called for global collaboration to fight cyber crime. "This is a cross-border problem that needs cross a cross-border solution," he said.
Cyber criminals have developed a sophisticated underground economy, Cameron said, that includes online shopping sites for stolen credit card details.
"International cyber security is a real and pressing concern with daily attempts on an industrial scale to steal corporate and government secrets," he said.
Cameron highlighted the UK's investment of £650m in cybersecurity as an indication of how important the UK government regards this issue. "Attacks on our national interest are unacceptable," he said.
Biden said the US was also making significant investments in countering cyber threats, including the appointment of cyber co-ordinator Howard Schmidt, who is taking part in the London conference.
Biden and Cameron invited other countries to join UK and US initiatives to strike a balance between countering threats without crushing all that is good and positive about the internet.
The answer to this question is a key priority enshrined in the US international strategy for cyberspace, said Biden.
"Together, I hope you can set the agenda that will enable a future internet that we can all share," said Cameron.
Biden said five billion people are expected to connect to the internet in the next 20 years. "The benefits they enjoy will depend on the choices we make now," he said.
However, he said, there is no need to start from scratch as there are well-established principles of international law that apply equally online. "Cyberspace is a new realm, but we have years of hard-won understandings to guide us," he said.
Biden said that in areas where there is no applicable guide, countries must find a way to work together.
For example, the US is working with Russia to establish links between their computer emergency response teams (CERTS) in the event of an alarming incident.
"We are meeting at a pivotal moment when the number of people online is about to make a huge jump," said Biden.
He urged all countries to join the US in betting that an open internet will lead to a more prosperous future for all.
"We are working for the five billion people who will join cyberspace; for their sake and ours, we have got to get this done," said Biden.