A report that the Chinese military may have been responsible for an attempt to hack into computers at The New York Times should bring the dangers of international cybercrime back to the public policy forefront.

Apparently, the Times started noticing electronic intrusions about the time it published a report about the family finances of Premier Wen Jiabo. The hackers broke into the email accounts of Shanghai bureau chief David Barboza and stole corporate passwords giving them access to private computers.

The newspaper hired a private security firm, which was able to block and trace the intrusions.

We should have a government security agency, however, to protect Americans and businesses from this kind of espionage.

Most of the nation’s power grid is under control of private businesses. So is the world’s financial system. An enemy could get into the computers that run either of those systems and create chaos all over the country.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins and former Sen. Olympia Snowe led an effort in the Senate last fall to create a cyberterrorism protection plan, but Congress was stymied by election-year politics.

The election is over, but the Times attack shows the problem has arrived.

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