Terming the cyber threat as one of the most serious national security challenges, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have asked for encryption of online services by private companies to maintain both people's privacy and help track down terrorists.
"I think what we have to find is a consistent framework whereby our publics have confidence that their government can both protect them, but not abuse our capacity to operate in cyberspace.
Because this is a whole new world, the laws that might have been designed for the traditional wiretap have to be updated," Obama said yesterday. "How we do that needs to be debated, both here in the US and in the UK. We're getting better at it.
I think we're striking the balance better," he added. Noting that the companies in the US at least recognised that they have a responsibility to the public, Obama said the companies also want to make sure that they're meeting their responsibilities to their customers that are using their products.
"So the dialogue that we're engaged in is designed to make sure that all of us feel confident that if there is an actual threat, our law enforcement and our intelligence officers can identify that threat and track that threat at the same time that our governments are not going around phishing into whatever text you might be sending on your smartphone.
That's something that can be achieved," he said. Obama conceded that there are going to be situations where there are hard cases. "On the other hand, there are times where law enforcement and those of us whose job it is to protect the public aren't thinking about those problems because we're trying to track and prevent a particular terrorist event from happening," he said.
The US and Britain agreed that the cyber threat was one of the most serious economic and national security challenges they face and requires cooperation between governments and the private sector.
"Every day foreign governments, criminals, and hackers are attempting to probe, intrude into, and attack government and private sector systems in both of our countries," a statement said.
Both the leaders recognised that the international nature of cyber threats requires that governments around the world work together to confront those threats.
During their bilateral meetings here, both Obama and Cameron agreed to further strengthen and deepen the already extensive cybersecurity cooperation between the US and the UK. the joint statement said.
"Both leaders agreed to bolster efforts to enhance the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure in both the countries, strengthen threat information sharing and intelligence cooperation on cyber issues, and support new educational exchanges between the US and the UK," it said.