Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Washington-based Aspen Institute think tank, believes the government needs more access and authority when it comes to protecting and watching online user activity.
Speaking about a Reuters report that Yahoo allegedly complied with a classified U.S. government demand to scan hundreds of millions of email accounts, Isaacson said: "There's a certain thing government should be able to request and do, with a court order."
In a statement Wednesday, Yahoo called the report "misleading."
"Government can tap a phone with a court order, but can it tap an email with a court order?" Isaacson, the former CNN chief and ex-editor of Time magazine, asked rhetorically during an interview on CNBC.
Isaacson, who said his Yahoo email account was among those that were hacked by an outside actor, argued on "Squawk Box" that society needs to find the right balance between accepting instances of hacking that are often entirely out of the victim's control, and allowing the government to verify that Americans are not communicating or sharing information with dangerous outsiders.
Maintaining the level of security the internet currently has will also inevitably pose problems, Isaacson said.
"We don't have one big national election system, so it's going to be a mess if the Russians keep hacking in [and] leaking material through WikiLeaks or other places," he said, citing recent hacks of voter registration systems in Arizona and Illinois, as well as email systems at Democratic National Convention. "It undermines confidence in our election."
In light of the Cambridge Cyber Summit, Isaacson said those seeking online security would be better served by a new type of internet where users are verified and authenticated by secure IDs. "We don't have rules of the road when it comes to cyber."
The author of the best-selling "Steve Jobs" biography insisted that the three groups who collectively have the largest impact on cybersecurity — government intelligence, industry giants like Facebook and Google and people in the academic world who can fix security issues — are disconnected.
And with trillions of dollars being spent on maintaining security, he said he wondered whether there could be a chance to rebuild the system and promote safety from the start.
Hosted by The Aspen Institute, CNBC and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Cambridge Cyber Summit is being held Wednesday in the Massachusetts city.
The conference is sponsored by CNBC, MIT and The Aspen Institute.
— Disclosure: CNBC has a content-sharing partnership with Yahoo's finance site.