US President-elect Barack Obama has been urged to create a new White House office to protect cyberspace from hackers, thieves and foreign agents.


According to a report that is to be made public today on Capitol Hill, the office will coordinate security efforts across the U.S. military, intelligence and civilian agencies, and also urges Obama's new administration and Congress to pass new laws to allow for speedier investigations.


The report will urge the Obama administration to make clear to America's enemies and allies how it will respond when it detects and traces such attacks, depending on whether break-ins are blamed on hackers, criminals or foreign governments.


It will propose online ‘data warrants', rather than traditional search warrants, which it said ‘may be increasingly impracticable in the online environment'.


James Lewis, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think-tank that organised the commission, said: “Responding to a cyber attack is a tough issue. Do operators respond with law enforcement, espionage or military actions? The guidelines are really unclear. The rules designed in the 1980s are slow, and the internet is fast.”


Jerry Dixon, former deputy director for the U.S. National Cyber Security division at the Homeland Security department, said: “We have to have a solid cyber doctrine. When does a cyber attack rise to the occasion of requiring military action? Or maybe it's something that law enforcement or the intelligence community can deal with?”