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Bank of America CEO calls for more collaboration to fight cybercrime

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan called Friday for more collaboration between the public and private sectors in order to battle the growing cybercrime threat facing U.S. companies and consumers.

“I think we're still a long way away from the collaboration we need from all the parties. We’re better than we were a year ago. We're better than we were two years ago ... (and) better (than) five years ago. But we've got to keep pushing people in a room, and it’s got to be comprehensive,” Moynihan said.

Moynihan delivered the comments at a White House cybersecurity summit held at Stanford University in California. He was among other top corporate leaders who served as panelists at the daylong event.

The summit was organized by the White House, which billed it as an opportunity to bring together private and public sector leaders to collaborate on ways to better protect consumers and companies against cybercriminals.

The event underscored the rising concern over cyberattacks, which continue to make national headlines as major U.S. companies become victims of hackers. Just last week, Anthem, the second-largest U.S. health insurer, disclosed that hackers breached its computer system storing information on up to 80 million people.

President Barack Obama told more than 1,500 business leaders, students, professors and reporters gathered at the summit that threat information must be shared and responded to quickly. And he signed an executive order aimed at making it easier for private firms to have access to classified information about cyberattacks.

He also stressed there would be oversight to ensure protections for privacy and civil liberties.

On Friday, Moynihan reiterated remarks he made in a Bloomberg TV interview last month in which he said Bank of America’s cybersecurity unit is free to spend whatever it needs to in order to protect consumer and bank data.

In the Bloomberg interview, Moynihan said the Charlotte bank, the second-largest in the U.S. by assets, spends more than $400 million a year on cybersecurity – a figure he said is rising.

“There's 230,000 people in our company, and I can any day know exactly where every one of them is and how much they cost and everything else. But the one thing I never ask is ... what (the bank’s cybersecurity unit is) going to spend,” he said at the White House summit Friday.

“At the end of the day ... the rest of the company doesn't operate if you have a problem” with cybersecurity.

Moynihan said that as mobile banking use rises, it's especially important that Bank of America’s customers believe their mobile transactions are secure.

“If we lose the confidence in the mobile phone, we don’t have the people to actually process the transactions that go through that device today,” he said. “We’d have to go back and hire 50,000 people probably to do it.”

The Obama administration wants Congress to supersede an existing patchwork of state laws by setting a national standard for when companies must notify consumers that their personal information has been compromised.

The executive order that Obama signed Friday encourages members of the private sector to share information about threats to cybersecurity with each other and with the federal government. The Associated Pres contributed.