Deputy Attorney General James Cole on Thursday concluded a two-day conference hosted by the Cybersecurity Law Institute at the Georgetown University Law Center urging corporations to take cyber threats seriously and be prepared.
"Cyber is really becoming, if it’s not already, probably the number one threat in our county today," Cole said. "It takes a number of different forms and it knows no borders."
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The country’s infrastructure is most susceptible to cyber attacks because they are controlled by computer systems, Cole said.
"It’s inevitable [attacks] will come," he said.
According to Cole, the government can only go so far in protecting industries. He said corporations must master areas of prevention to make accessing their systems more challenging.
Additionally, Cole said it is crucial for corporations to have a comprehensive response plan in place.
"These procedures need to be developed before a cyber attack occurs," Cole said. "After an attack has started it’s usually too late to figure out what to do or have any hope that what you’re going to do is going to be effective."
Cole said once attacks occur companies should immediately inform law enforcement agencies to help stop future attacks from affecting other companies, he said.
"The truth of the matter is unless we work together, we’re not going to be able to address the cyber threat."
Cole warned companies that if they do not trust the Department of Justice and report instances more attacks will come and other companies will be targeted.
"We have the tools to help you and to help others who’ve been victims of these attacks and we can use your attack information to help prevent future attacks," he said.
Cole concluded his speech calling for congressional action to give law enforcement officers better means to stop cyber crime and the ability to punish foreign offenders.
"We have been and we need to continue to engage our allies and our partners worldwide to fight this and to solidify norms of behavior to help ensure that the Internet remains secure and stable," Cole said.
"It’s also crucial for us to maintain a meaningful dialogue with the world’s largest cyber actors and work together to develop an understanding of what is acceptable behavior in cyber space and what is not."