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The lack of national cyber security leglislation is costing the U.S. big and it is amounting to “the greatest transfer of wealth in history,” said the general in charge of the National Security Agency (NSA).

U.S. Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander urged politicians to stop stalling on approving a cyber security law, of which various versions currently are floating around Congress. At the same time, he said private companies need to cooperate much better with government agencies, many of whom remain mum because of privacy concerns.

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“We can do the protection of civil liberties and privacy and cyber security as a nation. Not only that we can, but I believe it’s something that we must do,” said Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC.

“So this cyber security legislation coming up is going to be very important to the future of this country,” he said.

Cyber Security

Businesses, particularly Internet service providers and private companies, must communicate intrusions and suspicious network behavior in real time to government agencies if they are going to protect everyone from increasingly sophisticated threats, especially those posed by insecure mobile devices that are now the norm in U.S. enterprises, Alexander said.

“If the critical infrastructure community is being attacked by something, we need them to tell us — at network speed,” Alexander said during a keynote address. “It doesn’t require the government to read their mail — or your mail — to do that.

The Army general also outlined the huge financial toll companies now face.

“Symantec placed the cost of IP theft to United States companies at $250 billion a year,” he said. “Global cybercrime is at $114 billion — nearly $388 billion when you factor in downtime. And McAfee estimates that $1 trillion was spent globally on remediation. And that’s our future disappearing in front of us.”

The Army general, who also heads the U.S. Cyber Command, used his speech to also quell rumors that a new, $2 billion data center in Bluffdale, Utah would collect Americans’ emails and Web usage histories.

“We don’t store data on U.S. citizens,” he said. “That’s baloney. … That’s ludicrous.”

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