October 31, 2012 - William Lynn, CEO at DRS Technologies and Former Deputy Secretary of Defense, at Washington Post Live's Cybersecurity Summit. (Jeff Martin)

I would argue that what cyber has done has changed the scale and the speed with which nations can steal intellectual property. [It] fundamentally changed the game and may do, over a course of years or decades, real damage to our economic competitiveness and our technological advantages. That indeed may be the real national security threat — not some sort of overt attack — but undermining our economy, and we ought to be looking at tools to address that kind of intellectual property theft.

The British used to complain about the Germans and the Americans stealing their industrial secrets, which was true at the time. But the way you dealt with it was basically you kept your technology a generation ahead so you’re always five, 10 years ahead. What cyber has done is compress that timeline so that you can no longer be assured of staying ahead. So the impact, I think, is much greater. So I think we have to look beyond the traditional tools that we use. There isn’t a set of pure solutions.

Certainly when you think about the tools in our tool chest, one of the things that we really haven’t explored is the use of the private sector in areas of economic espionage. The Economic Espionage Act does not have a sole remedy. That was discussed and debated and had been denied years ago. That seems certainly right to figure out what the role of the private sector is and actually going after either the nation state — I mean assets could get frozen of the nation’s state — that’s a remedy, or those who are actually getting the benefit of the nation state. It seems to me to be an unlawful subsidy if your nation state is providing you with trade secrets.