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Big investors see cybersecurity as opportunity

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Cyberattacks on U.S. businesses could be an opportunity for investors as companies spend money to upgrade their infrastructures, big-name money managers said on Wednesday at a conference geared to sharing potential blockbuster ideas.

Even U.S. Treasury Jacob Lew, speaking at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha conference, noted that such attacks are an immediate concern.

"Everyone in this room knows cyber intrusions are not some hypothetical event on the horizon," Lew said, calling them a threat to economic security.

That, in turn, means more companies will have to upgrade, adapt or otherwise evolve their systems to deal with the problem, investors said.

"Every business in the United States will have to spend more money to defend themselves," said Lee Ainslie, head of Maverick Capital. He feels that companies providing cybersecurity could grow.

Jim Breyer, the chief executive of Breyer Capital, also listed cybersecurity and messaging as among his most interesting focuses at the conference, as well.

Cybersecurity has emerged as a major policy question in recent years, with Lew mentioning the topic comes up when he speaks with foreign leaders, as well.

Major corporations have suffered a number of high-profile breaches. Retailer Target, for example, ousted Gregg Steinhafel as chairman and chief executive in May some five months after a widespread breach provoked consumer ire.

Even billionaire investor Warren Buffett – who was not present at Wednesday's conference – says he's afraid of cyber risks.

In an interview with Reuters earlier this year, Buffett said he frets about the potential for cyberattacks at Berkshire Hathaway companies, particularly those with large physical facilities such as the BNSF railroad and at utility operations.

"It's something that the CEOs of our companies worry about plenty," he said in that interview.

(Reporting by Luciana Lopez, Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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