PHILADELPHIA (AP) — On the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the federal government and the private sector must improve the way they share information to help prevent and respond to cyber threats.

Napolitano spoke to the American Society for Industrial Security on Monday, saying cyber-attacks have increased significantly over the past decade and are one of the greatest risks facing the country. Cooperation between the government and the private sector is essential to preventing and responding to them, she said.

Cyber-attacks, which end up costing about $114 billion a year, don’t just target government sites, Napolitano said, but private entities such as water plants and gas pipeline companies. She pointed out that private entities own and operate the vast majority of cyber networks and urged the private sector to remove barriers that prevent quick information sharing with the federal government, saying “seconds matter.”

“We need to make it easier for companies to share information with Homeland Security,” she told the group, which is holding its conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. “We need to address cybersecurity now, not in years to come.”

She cautioned that cyber threats can come from anywhere and are ever-evolving, involving everything from banking to the exploitation of children. Together, she said, government and private companies need to foster a culture of shared responsibility on cybersecurity.

“Information remains one of the most important tools for detecting threats early,” Napolitano said. “Threats are real and they are ever-evolving.”

In terms of employment, Napolitano trumpeted the importance of public-private cooperation, saying it was important that people working in cybersecurity be able to move between jobs in government and in the private sector.

“We are all in this together,” she told the conference. “You are a critical part of that homeland security enterprise.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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