A report that the Chinese military may have been responsible for an attempt to hack into computers at The New York Times should bring the dangers of international cybercrime back to the public policy forefront.

Apparently, the Times started noticing electronic intrusions about the time it published a report about the family finances of Premier Wen Jiabao. The hackers broke into the email accounts of Shanghai bureau chief David Barboza and stole corporate passwords giving them access to private computers.

The newspaper hired a private security firm, which was able to block and trace the intrusions, but there should be a government security responsibility to protect Americans and businesses from this kind of espionage.

Most of the nation’s power grid is under the control of private businesses. So are most hospitals. So is the world’s financial system. An enemy could get into the computers that run those systems and create chaos all over the country.

There have been efforts to create a cyberterrorism protection plan, but Congress was stymied by election-year politics. The election is over, and the Times attack shows the problem has arrived.