A new era crept into the world the evening of Oct. 29, 1969. On the second try, the word “login” was sent between computers at UCLA and Stanford — and the first connection of what became the Internet was established.  

Four decades later, the World Wide Web is a vibrant global community, with an estimated 700 million hosts serving a plugged-in population of 1.8 billion users and growing — creating a revolution in commerce, communications, entertainment, finance and government.  

But that cybercommunity can be a dangerous place, and we cannot leave our economy and national security at risk. To strengthen our cyberspace defenses, we are introducing Thursday the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act.

Our proposed legislation would modernize efforts to safeguard the nation’s cyberspace networks by creating a more robust organizational structure. This framework would enhance public-private partnerships to build preparedness and resiliency, strengthen the security of federal systems and improve awareness of cyberthreats across the country.  

We have to deal with an increasing number of “cybercriminals” and “cyberspies.” They look at the Web and see electronic pipelines that lead directly into everything from personal bank accounts to government and industrial secrets.  

We have to prepare now for the very real possibility of cyberwar and cyberterror. For example, an adversary could take down our electrical grid or financial infrastructure from across the ocean — using just a series of keystrokes.  

The need to defend our cyberspace infrastructure from such attacks is both obvious and urgent.  

“We face a long-term challenge in cyberspace from foreign intelligence agencies and militaries, criminals and others,” a bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies report concluded, “and losing this struggle will wreak serious damage on the economic health and national security of the United States.”  

The CSIS report, “Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency,” found that the Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and Commerce, as well as NASA and the National Defense University, have all suffered “major intrusions by unknown foreign entities.” Defense Department computers are probed hundreds of thousands of times a day.  

In December 2009, Google and 30 other companies in the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors — most of them global Fortune 500 companies — were the target of highly sophisticated attacks, allegedly from China, in what appears to have been a massive attempt at industrial espionage and theft of intellectual property.  

In a report by McAfee, a computer security company, about 54 percent of the executives of critical infrastructure companies surveyed said that their firms had been victims of denial-of-service attacks, as well as network infiltration by organized-crime groups, terrorists and other nation-states. The cost of downtime to recover from these attacks can reach $6 million to $8 million a day, the executives said.