RSA President Art Coviello said the online fraudsters "are not bound by any rules of law" and "control massive armies of zombie computers".
Security professionals are being called on to band together to fight the highly organised cyber criminals of the world.
The call was made at a San Francisco conference organised by security firm RSA - the largest event of its kind.
Recent reports claimed cyber criminals had infiltrated everything from the US power grid to the Pentagon.
In his keynote speech to the conference, Mr Coviello urged the industry not to underestimate the global cyber security threat and the sophistication of criminals.
"Our adversaries operate as a true ecosystem that thrives through interdependence and constantly adapts to ensure its growth and survival.
Mr Coviello said that meant it was time for the security industry to come together to defeat the criminal element at large.
"We must evolve from acting independently to solve discreet information security problems to acting collaboratively to create a common development process.
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