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updated 7/27/2012 8:48:13 PM ET 2012-07-28T00:48:13

LAS VEGAS — Like Daniel stepping into the lions' den, the U.S. government's top cybersecurity officer spoke to an audience of hackers here today (July 27) — and asked for their help.

"In this room is the talent our nation needs to secure cyberspace," Gen. Keith Alexander, head of both the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, told a standing-room-only ballroom at the 20th DEFCON hackers' conference.

"You know we can protect networks and protect privacy," Alexander said. "We can do both. We need to do both."

Alexander used his keynote address to stress what he saw as the shared principles of the hacker community and the intelligence community, such as the belief that privacy and civil liberties must be protected.

Hackers can be part of a collaborative approach to cybersecurity, he said, and are uniquely qualified to educate others about information-sharing and protecting privacy.

"Creating a better Internet is not about one nation winning and another nation losing," read one of the general's presentation files, which were projected onto screens. "If the Internet wins, everyone wins."

The director of the NSA got warm rounds of applause from the gathered hackers at the beginning and end of his speech.

"This is our future," Alexander told the crowd, which was dotted with massive beards, Mohawks, dreadlocks and large men wearing kilts. "You can help share it."

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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