WASHINGTON (AFP) - Cybersecurity is a major national security threat and US president-elect Barack Obama should create an office in the White House to deal with the problem, a high-level panel of experts said on Monday.
The warning was issued in a report by the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, a group of government and cybersecurity experts assembled by the Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).
"Cybersecurity is among the most serious economic and national security challenges we will face in the 21st century," the commission said in a summary of its report, "Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency."
"We face a long-term challenge in cyberspace from foreign intelligence agencies and militaries, criminals, and others," it said.
"This struggle will wreak serious damage on the economic health and national security of the US unless we respond vigorously," the commission said.
"Only a comprehensive national security strategy that embraces both the domestic and international aspects of cybersecurity will improve the situation," it said in the report available at tinyurl.com/6r68tb.
The commission said the approach should include "international engagement and diplomacy; military doctrine and action, economic policy tools, and the involvement of the intelligence and law enforcement communities."
"This strategy should be based on a public statement by the president that the cyber infrastructure of the United States is a vital asset for national security and the economy and that the US will protect it, using all instruments of national power," the commission said.
It urged Obama, who takes office January 20, to create a White House office for cyberspace which would be responsible for "managing the many aspects of securing our national networks while protecting privacy and civil liberties."
During his campaign for the presidency, Obama pledged to create a senior level post of Chief Technology Officer in his administration.
The panel also called for laws regarding cyberspace to be updated, saying they were "decades old, written for the technologies of a less-connected era."
The commission began its work in 2007 after the United States was hit by a wave of damaging attacks in cyberspace.
Its consultations included discussions with senior officials in the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and in the US intelligence community.
A US congressional panel warned last month that China has developed a sophisticated cyberwarfare program and stepped up its capacity to penetrate US computer networks to extract sensitive information.