Panetta’s Cyber Warning: ‘This Is a Pre-9/11 Moment’
The Pentagon is mobilizing its cyberwarfare arsenal in preparation for a massive assault on U.S. networks that could “paralyze the nation,” said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.
“A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11,” Panetta said Oct. 11 in a speech to corporate leaders of Business Executives for National Security, a nonpartisan group.
Panetta, along with Frank J. Bisignano, chief operating officer of JP Morgan Chase & Co., received the BENS Eisenhower Award, following a black-tie dinner at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, in New York City.
Hostile network penetrations are nothing new at the Department of Defense, whose 15,000 computer systems are routinely targeted by hackers and industrial spies. But Panetta is now warning that even more destructive cyber weapons are being aimed at the United States. He is directing the Pentagon to begin ramping up network-security efforts, and he is calling on the private sector to help by sharing intelligence about suspected or actual attacks.
A string of breaches over the past several months marks a “significant escalation of the cyber threat,” said Panetta. “And they have renewed concerns about still more destructive scenarios that could unfold.”
Foreign hackers, he noted, are “probing America’s critical infrastructure networks. They are targeting the computer control systems that operate chemical, electricity and water plants, and those that guide transportation throughout the country.”
The nation today faces the cyber equivalent of a “pre-9/11 moment,” he said somberly.
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