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The evolving challenge of cybersecurity

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Hackers are constantly working to outsmart the best defenses of the U.S. government and private companies
"Significant vulnerabilities" in U.S. cybersecurity 05:44

Several recent cyberattacks have refocused the public's attention on what the U.S. government is doing -- or should be doing -- to keep our data secure.

CBS News spoke with cybersecurity expert Michael DeCesare, CEO of ForeScout Technologies, about the attacks on the U.S. Army website and the Office of Personnel Management, and the constantly evolving threat from hackers around the globe.

"There is a lot of effort going in by the U.S. government, by corporations, to try and secure this," he said. "But there's a lot of effort going into the adversaries on the other side of this as well."

DeCesare said the recent theft of the personal information of at least 4 million current and former federal workers highlights the fact hackers can lurk in computer systems far longer than most people realize.

"In almost all of these [hacking instances] that we read about, it's undetermined how long the adversaries were on the system," he said. "They get on, they try to sit in some stealthy part of the environment and just observe for as long as they can until they get caught."

In an interview with "Face the Nation" on Sunday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said the hack was intended to gain information for exploitation and espionage purposes.

DeCesare said most hackers are after one of three things: prestige, intellectual property or money. In an attack on Monday, hackers claiming to be from the Syrian Electronic Army, apparently seeking prestige and an audience for their message, infiltrated the website of the U.S. Army and posted a pop-up message that read "your commanders admit they are training the people they have sent you to die fighting."

"When you look at a government website, it wouldn't be surprising to hear that there's over a thousand attacks a day coming at that individual website," DeCesare said. "It's a game of cat and mouse."

When the U.S. government is quick to point fingers about the source of an attack, it usually means the U.S. has access to the hacker's system as well, DeCesare said.

"When that quickly there is speculation about who it is, it usually means we're on their system monitoring traffic so that we know it's coming," DeCesare said. "It's very easy for attackers to mask their footprint."

Watch the video above for more of DeCesare's insights into cybersecurity and what we can do to enhance our defenses.

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