Pentagon official warns private sector of the Web's "wild, wild West"

Private sector companies that opt out of government protection face life in the "wild, wild West" of the Web, according to a top Pentagon official.

Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn III said Wednesday the Pentagon is considering expanding its network protections to include private sector companies in crucial sectors such as transportation, finance and utilities.

Those firms that opt out of the protections would "stay in the wild, wild West of the unprotected Internet," Lynn told the AP during a cybersecurity conference Wednesday in Omaha, Neb.

Lynn said the Pentagon has put together a task force to examine creating a voluntary cybersecurity monitoring and detection framework that would include private sector companies. One option would be expanding existing Einstein monitoring systems currently under development by the Department of Homeland Security to allow private sector companies to opt in.

Einstein 2 is currently in place at about half of all federal agencies, while Einstein 3 is still being tested. Both automatically detect malicious activity on Internet and e-mail traffic, though Einstein 3 is expected to actively block attacks. Many large private firms already have safeguards in place that are on par with or more advanced than Einstein 2.