Obama aide to hackers: We will find you

President Obama's chief homeland security adviser warned Friday that the government is serious about punishing hackers and cybercriminals.

"Those who seek to harm us either online or in the physical world need to know that we will find them and we will hold them to account," Lisa Monaco said at a White House summit on cybersecurity held at Stanford University.

Monaco's remarks, made as the gathering opened, highlight a desire within the Obama administration to apply lessons from fighting terrorism to countering cybersecurity threats.

ADVERTISEMENT

The new agency formed this week to facilitate data-sharing on cyber threats is modeled on the National Counterrorism Center, Monaco noted — an office established in the wake of 9/11 after spy agencies were accused of siloing valuable intelligence information.

Monaco also urged the technology industry to be in "lock step" with the administration, warning that cyberattacks such as the one on Sony Pictures "could become the norm" if collaboration is not improved.

"The cyber threat is becoming more diverse, sophisticated and dangerous," Monaco said.

"The actions we take today or those that we fail to take will determine whether cyberspace remains a great international realm of opportunity and asset … or whether it becomes frankly a strategic vulnerability."

Cybersecurity is a rising priority for the Obama administration as news of fresh data breaches litters the headlines.

The United States is the world's top target of successful hacks, accounting for 76 percent of all incidents worldwide last year, according to digital security firm Gemalto.

The White House planned the Silicon Valley event in part to bring attention to a new executive order that would lay the foundation for greater information sharing on cyberthreats between the government and industry.

The order, which Obama will sign on Friday, would structure the information-sharing centers that the White House wants companies to use. Administration officials hope the move will encourage lawmakers to approve legislation placing the Department of Homeland Security at the center of a public-private cyber information exchange.

"This is not a partisan issue and there is real urgency," said Jeff Zients, director of the National Economic Council and another Obama aide. "Companies deserve a single standard of action when their data is breached. … The ball is in Congress's court. Let's get this done."