United States on Brink of Major Cyber Attack, Industry Executive Predicts

11/13/2012
By Yasmin Tadjdeh

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
The United States could be on the cusp of a major cyber attack that would rival the destruction that was seen on 9/11, a retired lieutenant general and cybersecurity executive said.
“The day of the cyber-9/11 is looming and gaining on us,” said Ret. Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry D. Raduege Jr. who serves as the chairman of the Deloitte Center for Cyber Innovation in Arlington, Va.
The destruction felt by this type of cyber attack would not be reserved to computers, but could result in real loss of life, huge economic damage and could affect the entire world, he warned.
Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, he said.
“It’s not ‘if’ anymore. It’s ‘when’ these kinds of things are going to happen. So we’re now … at this pre-9/11 moment in cyberspace,” Raduege said.
Raduege classifies cyberwars into three types — cold, warm and hot. A “cold” cyberwar would be tactical in nature and breeches would not have occurred yet; a “warm” cyberwar would be operational and include smaller attacks — such as recent ones on banking systems; and a “hot” cyberwar would be described by disastrous events that would devastate the nation economically and result in loss of human life.
In order to avoid these conflicts, the cyber domain must be secured. But a number of issues stand in the way of this, Raduege said.
For one, innovation simply is not moving fast enough, Raduege said. There is a “virtual wall” between government and the private sector that must be removed in order to collect information on attacks. Without more cooperation between the two entities, work cannot be done at the same rate that the attacks are occurring. Even within the government itself, there is a lack of communication among differing agencies that does not allow for a cohesive set of data.
“There is no overarching activity that is pulling all that together… Right now, if you take a look at all the attacks we are having, I think the bad guys are outclassing us and moving faster than we are defending ourselves — and I think that is a dangerous precedent,” said Raduege.
Raduege proposed the creation of a federal agency — which he called the National Office of Cybersecurity — whose head would have cabinet rank. This, he said, would give someone real authority and power to get work done, and encourage trust between the government and the private sector.
During the recent presidential debates, Raduege said he was concerned that neither candidate mentioned cyberattacks. To ignore the growing threat of cyber — which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and FBI Director Robert Mueller both have warned about — is dangerous, he said.
“We’ve been warned and we’ve been warned consistently about the potential of cyber attack,” said Raduege, and yet not enough is being done.
Just within the Defense Department, cyber attacks have increased 680 percent over the last five years, Raduege said.
Photo Credit: iStockphoto

Topics: Cyber, Cybersecurity

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