Cyber crime is probably the biggest risk facing companies across the world, and they need to do more to help governments tackle the problem, U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin said.
"Each of us must recognise this risk is perhaps the most pressing operational risk of our time," she told the CityWeek conference in London.
Financial services firms were making substantial investments in reinforcing their resilience to cyber attacks but they needed to embed this resilience into their existing business units rather than grafting improvements on top of them, she said.
"Such an approach creates multiple levels of defence," Raskin said.
Shorter term "fixes" included sharing information within the sector, focusing on security of third party vendors used by financial service firms, and engaging in a "proactive preparedness effort", she said.
But the risks went far beyond financial services, she added.
Cyber threats undermined freedom of expression and hampered global economic recovery, and governments needed to ensure international legal principles that respect state sovereignty and human rights apply to conduct online as well as offline, Raskin said.
"We now need to develop consensus around ways to respond to this threat," she told the conference.
The enormity of the task should not be underestimated as combatting cyber crime was like talking about going to Mars and back in a single day, Raskin said.
The number of electronic devices in the world has mushroomed from 500 million in 2003 to 12.5 billion by 2010 and could reach 50 billion by 2020, increasing the opportunity for cyber crime.