Defense Secretary Panetta warns of dire threat of cyberattack on U.S.–equivalent of “cyber Pearl Harbor”

// October 12th, 2012 // Hacking and Security


Security lock in networkUnited States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta painted a dire picture of a potential cyberattack on the United States yesterday.

“An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches.  They could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”

Recent activities, including a wave of cyberattacks on U.S. banks, indicate adversaries are increasingly bold and brazen in their attacks on U.S. interests.  In addition, nation states, including China, Russia, and Iran, have stepped up their attacks.  Panetta is calling for new legislation that would require new standards for critical private-sector infrastructure facilities such as power plants, water treatment facilities, and gas transportation systems.  He pointed out that a cybersecurity bill had been blocked by Republicans who deemed the bill too costly for American corporations.

Panetta told the New York Times:

“The most destructive possibilities involve cyber-actors launching several attacks on our critical infrastructure at one time, in combination with a physical attack, a cyber-Pearl Harbor that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life, an attack that would paralyze and shock the nation and create a profound new sense of vulnerability.  We’re not interested in looking at e-mail, we’re not interested in looking at information in computers, I’m not interested in violating rights or liberties of people.  But if there is a code, if there’s a worm that’s being inserted, we need to know when that’s happening.”

Sources: New York Times
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