CNN Security Clearance

Cyber chief warns of rising danger from cyber attacks

By Suzanne Kelly

In a rare public appearance Monday, the head of the country's Cyber Command warned that the nature of cyberattacks is changing and becoming more dangerous.

Gen. Keith Alexander also talked about the economic toll that cyberintrusions are taking on American business, saying that for every intrusion detected by the FBI, there are 100 others that remain undetected.

"The probability for crisis is mounting," said Alexander, who also heads the National Security Agency. He told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington that he was concerned about the changing nature of the threat from disruptive to destructive attacks and that the numbers of cyber attacks against business and critical infrastructure are on the rise.

Alexander used the public opportunity to urge Congress to quickly pass legislation that would give the government additional authorities to communicate what it knows with the private sector to enable a closer public-private partnership when it comes to cybersecurity. Critics argue that giving the government too much power will come at a cost when it comes to civil liberties.

"We can protect civil liberties and protect cyberspace," said Alexander, who added that the government is not interested in reading private e-mail, but is interested in identifying the IP addresses from which malicious computer programs are being launched.

Alexander said there are still concerns that terrorist groups like al Qaeda may launch a cyberattack. He added that al Qaeda "is not viable in that realm right now," but said that could change quickly and that concerns him.