WASHINGTON - A global cyber arms race is engulfing the Internet and the best way to counter the rapidly escalating threat is combining the efforts of US agencies, private firms and international allies, cyber security officials said on Tuesday.

Cyber experts from across the US government, speaking at a conference at Georgetown University, said organized crime, espionage and security activity on the Internet pose a rising threat to US intellectual property, military superiority and critical infrastructure.

"What we're looking at is a global cyber arms race," said Rear Admiral Samuel Cox, director of intelligence at US Cyber Command, which was set up 18 months ago to protect Pentagon computer networks and conduct offensive cyber operations if the president orders them.

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