FBI Director: Private sector help 'essential' to combating cyberattacks

But the FBI chief also acknowledged that there are obstacles to forming strong public-private partnerships. He said intelligence-sharing efforts about cyber threats are one of the main areas that need to be improved and that the recent cybersecurity executive order issued by President Obama would help with the process.

"We must fuse private-sector information with information from the intelligence community to produce a complete picture of cyber threats, one that benefits all of us," he said.

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He also made the point that people, not computers or malware, are behind the cyberattacks unleashed against companies and the government.

"We must identify and deter the persons behind those computer keyboards," Mueller said. "And once we identify them—be they state actors, organized criminal groups, or 18 year-old hackers—we must devise a response that is effective, not just against that specific attack, but for all similar illegal activity."

For example, he noted that the FBI uncovered a member of the hacker group LulzSec, saying he later worked with the bureau as an informant. That partnership allowed the FBI to arrest six hackers associated with LulzSec and hacker group Anonymous, as well as identify "hundreds" of security vulnerabilities in networks, according to Mueller.

LulzSec gained notoriety after it claimed responsibility for cyberattacks against the public websites of the CIA and Senate.gov. He said the help of the LulzSec informant helped prevent future intrustions.

"We must remember that cybersecurity is not defending just the ones and the zeroes," he said.

This post was updated at 7:11 p.m.