THE PRESIDENT: Everybody, please be seated. We meet today at a transformational moment -- a moment in history when our interconnected world presents us, at once, with great promise but also great peril.
It's long been said that the revolutions in communications and information technology have given birth to a virtual world. But make no mistake: This world -- cyberspace -- is a world that we depend on every single day. It's our hardware and our software, our desktops and laptops and cell phones and Blackberries that have become woven into every aspect of our lives.
It's the great irony of our Information Age -- the very technologies that empower us to create and to build also empower those who would disrupt and destroy. And this paradox -- seen and unseen -- is something that we experience every day.
I know how it feels to have privacy violated because it has happened to me and the people around me. It's no secret that my presidential campaign harnessed the Internet and technology to transform our politics. What isn't widely known is that during the general election hackers managed to penetrate our computer systems. To all of you who donated to our campaign, I want you to all rest assured, our fundraising website was untouched. (Laughter.) So your confidential personal and financial information was protected.
But between August and October, hackers gained access to emails and a range of campaign files, from policy position papers to travel plans. And we worked closely with the CIA -- with the FBI and the Secret Service and hired security consultants to restore the security of our systems. It was a powerful reminder: In this Information Age, one of your greatest strengths -- in our case, our ability to communicate to a wide range of supporters through the Internet -- could also be one of your greatest vulnerabilities.
This is a matter, as well, of America's economic competitiveness. The small businesswoman in St. Louis, the bond trader in the New York Stock Exchange, the workers at a global shipping company in Memphis, the young entrepreneur in Silicon Valley -- they all need the networks to make the next payroll, the next trade, the next delivery, the next great breakthrough. E-commerce alone last year accounted for some $132 billion in retail sales.
But every day we see waves of cyber thieves trolling for sensitive information -- the disgruntled employee on the inside, the lone hacker a thousand miles away, organized crime, the industrial spy and, increasingly, foreign intelligence services. In one brazen act last year, thieves used stolen credit card information to steal millions of dollars from 130 ATM machines in 49 cities around the world -- and they did it in just 30 minutes. A single employee of an American company was convicted of stealing intellectual property reportedly worth $400 million. It's been estimated that last year alone cyber criminals stole intellectual property from businesses worldwide worth up to $1 trillion.
In short, America's economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity.
And this is also a matter of public safety and national security. We count on computer networks to deliver our oil and gas, our power and our water. We rely on them for public transportation and air traffic control. Yet we know that cyber intruders have probed our electrical grid and that in other countries cyber attacks have plunged entire cities into darkness.
For all these reasons, it's now clear this cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.
It's also clear that we're not as prepared as we should be, as a government or as a country. In recent years, some progress has been made at the federal level. But just as we failed in the past to invest in our physical infrastructure -- our roads, our bridges and rails -- we've failed to invest in the security of our digital infrastructure.
This new approach starts at the top, with this commitment from me: From now on, our digital infrastructure -- the networks and computers we depend on every day -- will be treated as they should be: as a strategic national asset. Protecting this infrastructure will be a national security priority. We will ensure that these networks are secure, trustworthy and resilient. We will deter, prevent, detect, and defend against attacks and recover quickly from any disruptions or damage.
To give these efforts the high-level focus and attention they deserve -- and as part of the new, single National Security Staff announced this week -- I'm creating a new office here at the White House that will be led by the Cybersecurity Coordinator. Because of the critical importance of this work, I will personally select this official. I'll depend on this official in all matters relating to cybersecurity, and this official will have my full support and regular access to me as we confront these challenges.
Let me also be clear about what we will not do. Our pursuit of cybersecurity will not -- I repeat, will not include -- monitoring private sector networks or Internet traffic. We will preserve and protect the personal privacy and civil liberties that we cherish as Americans. Indeed, I remain firmly committed to net neutrality so we can keep the Internet as it should be -- open and free.
The task I have described will not be easy. Some 1.5 billion people around the world are already online, and more are logging on every day. Groups and governments are sharpening their cyber capabilities. Protecting our prosperity and security in this globalized world is going to be a long, difficult struggle demanding patience and persistence over many years.