The cybersecurity relationship between the government and private sector will be cemented for generations to come by the decisions made in the next few years, a top White House official said Wednesday.

“In the next, I would say 3 to 4 years, we will be defining how these relationships will operate for the next 50,” said White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel, speaking at an Atlantic Council event on Wednesday.

“So if that’s not enough to scare you, then I haven’t been doing my job,” he added.

{mosads}This year, the White House is making a big push to forge a better working relationship on cybersecurity between the government and private sector.

The administration is urging Congress to pass a bill to facilitate cyber data sharing between the two and on Friday unveiled an executive order that lays the White House’s vision of how companies can exchange info with each other and with the government.

“Given the nature of cyberspace and how it functions,” Daniel said, it “means that we can’t simply assign the responsibility of cybersecurity to the federal government.”

The vast majority of the country’s critical infrastructure is owned and operated by private entities. And it’s getting hammered by cyberattacks.

Industry groups and government officials want to work together to mitigate these digital assaults, but legal concerns and disagreement over the details have hindered the process.

The two sides have to “chart some new ways of doing business,” Daniel said, “that don’t fall neatly into traditional regulatory or contractual categories that we’ve had.”

Daniel made his pitch that the two sides “are building those relationships now.”

He pointed to last Friday’s White House cybersecurity summit. At the event, a number of major companies, including Intel, Bank of America and Apple, agreed to implement the administration’s cybersecurity framework, a rubric to help companies defend against cyber risks.

Daniel called it “one of the key outcomes of the summit.”

But coverage of the summit was dominated by headlines about the absence of most top tech CEOs. The heads of Facebook, Google and Yahoo all turned down invites to attend, amid speculation that the snub was a sign of ongoing tensions between the White House and tech sector over National Security Agency spying.

The White House will have to bridge these gaps in the coming years, Daniel said. If it doesn’t, the prospects could be dire.

“Cybersecurity really is a shared responsibility between the government and private sector,” he said. “This is clearly [one] of the most important policy issues and key challenges in the early part of the 21st century.”

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