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Assistant US Attorney General Urges Caution Against Cyber Threats

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Photo by Amy Mayer
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Assistant US Attorney General John Carlin tours the biorenewables complex at Iowa State University during a visit to Ames.

The country's top attorney on national security issues told Iowans Wednesday that all Internet-connected computers are potentially vulnerable to outside attacks.

John Carlin, assistant U.S. attorney general for national security, visited central Iowa to share with business leaders what the government sees as threats, and how companies can protect themselves.

"In today's world," Carlin says, "if you have an internet-connected system, there's no product you can buy that will build a wall high enough or deep enough to keep at least a dedicated nation-state, organized criminal group out."

Carlin says the visit here is part of a larger effort to make intelligence and law enforcement efforts on cyber security more public.

"We've been determined to stop treating this as an intelligence problem," he says, "where we watch what the adversary is doing. Because what we were seeing was too horrifying."

Carlin says every day they were watching billions of dollars' worth of information get snatched away from companies. So one of his motives for visiting with business leaders is "encouraging companies to think about risk management at the level of the C suite."

Where there's an internet connection, there's a risk of getting hacked, Carlin says. But forethought and advance planning can help.