The head of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Cyber Command, created to defend against internet-based attacks, has called on hackers to help make the web more secure.
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General Keith Alexander emphasised the common ground between US officials and hackers at the 2012 Defcon hacking convention in Las Vegas.
He told attendees that privacy must be preserved and that they could help by developing new tools, according to the Guardian. "You're going to have to come in and help us," said Alexander.
Referring to a list of major companies that have been hacked in the past two years, he said a lot of companies with tremendous cybersecurity expertise were still getting hacked.
"This is the community that builds many of these [software hacking] tools. This community, better than anyone, understands where this is going and what we can do to fix that," he told Defcon attendees, according to reports.
Computer attacks multiplying
The call came just days after he was quoted by the New York Times as saying there was a 17-fold increase in computer attacks on US infrastructure between 2009 and 2011, initiated by criminal gangs, hackers and other nations.
A growing number of foreign cyber attacks were aimed at “critical infrastructure”, he said, and the US remained unprepared to ward off a major attack.
Alexander's statement during the Aspen Security Forum at the Aspen Institute is the US government’s first official acknowledgment of the pace at which national electricity grids, water supplies, computer and mobile networks and other infrastructure are coming under attack, the paper said.
Alexander took the opportunity at Defcon to lobby for a cyber security bill moving through the Senate that aims to make it easier for companies under attack to share information with the government and each other, as well as give critical infrastructure owners some reward for adhering to future security standards.
He also called on Defcon attendees to help in the process of setting the security standards for critical networks.
A "perfectly secure" internet is in the nation's best interest and would help revive the staggering economy, said Alexander.