During Target's massive data breach, hackers stole the information of 40 million credit and debit cards. This cyber theft hurt sales and Target's earnings. They are not alone. The state's attorney general says California businesses and government agencies have experienced as many as 300 data breaches during the past two years. The personal information of customer accounts has been exposed.
"It impedes commerce because people are afraid to use their cards, maybe afraid to go to certain places to shop, it stunts innovation, it just has so many knock-on effects," says Comey.
The head of the FBI was in San Francisco to meet with staff and to attend the RSA Conference where everything is information-security related. His mission is to bridge the gap between the government and the private sector. It's no secret private companies are not keen on sharing information with the government and vice versa.
Nawaf Bitar is with Juniper Networks, a network security provider. He says, "We worry we are going to be giving away our crown jewels, lose our competitive edge and I think at some point we have to look beyond that and look at how we may serve a greater good in this case."
Comey says working and sharing information will help predict and prevent attacks. He also criticized those businesses that don't admit data breaches.
Frank Winter is with Auconet, which provides security to large entities. He says sharing information on cyber-attacks pays off. Winter says, "They are able to align their security strategies and say, 'OK, next time, it will never happen.' They can improve by knowing these issues they have in other companies."
Comey says they will come down hard on those commit this crimes. He says, "This is a serious crime and we have to lock some people up to send a message that it's not something you can get to do for free in your pajamas half way around the world."
FBI directors are appointed for 10 years. Comey admits the problem of cyber-hacking will go on for much longer.