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Lew: Financial firms need to be more vigilant on cyberattacks

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Wednesday will urge American financial firms to do more to protect themselves from cyber attacks, according to excerpts of his remarks released by the Treasury Department.

"Far too many hedge funds, asset managers, insurance providers, exchanges, financial market utilities, and banks should and could be doing more," Lew will say in remarks at the 2014 Delivering Alpha Conference hosted by CNBC and Institutional Investor Wednesday.

"In particular, it is imperative that firms collaborate with government agencies and with other firms," Lew will say. "Disclosing security breaches is often perceived as something that could harm a firm's reputation. This has made many businesses reluctant to reveal information about cyber incidents."

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Lew's remarks come as the Obama Administration is ramping up its focus on cyber espionage and corporate spying.

Lew was in Beijing in early July, where he and other American officials said they challenged Chinese leaders during the regular Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the two countries to limit cyber security attacks against the US government and American companies.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew
Getty Images
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew

And the Department of Justice unsealed indictments against five Chinese military leaders in May on charges of stealing trade secrets from US companies. That sparked a back and forth between US officials and their Chinese counterparts over which government is more to blame for global cyber snooping. The Chinese government has dismissed US claims of Chinese government sponsored hacking.

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But attacks on the US financial sector can come from a myriad of sources, including state sponsored groups, cyber criminals, politically motivated hackers and others.

No matter the source, Lew will warn that a successful attack on the US financial system "would compromise market confidence, jeopardize the integrity of data, and pose a threat to financial stability."

"The consequences of cyber incidents are serious," he will say. "When credit card data is stolen, it disturbs lives and damages consumer confidence. When trade secrets are robbed, it undercuts America's businesses and undermines U.S. competitiveness."

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