January 25, 2013
WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned on Thursday that a major cyber attack is a looming threat and could have the same sort of impact as last year’s Superstorm Sandy, which knocked out electricity in a large swathe of the Northeast.
Napolitano said a “cyber 9/11″ could happen “imminently” and that critical infrastructure – including water, electricity and gas – was very vulnerable to such a strike.
“We shouldn’t wait until there is a 9/11 in the cyber world. There are things we can and should be doing right now that, if not prevent, would mitigate the extent of damage,” said Napolitano, speaking at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington and referring to the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Napolitano runs the sprawling Homeland Security Department that was created 10 years ago in the aftermath of September 11 and charged with preventing another such event.
She urged Congress to pass legislation governing cyber security so the government could share information with the private sector to prevent an attack on infrastructure, much of which is privately owned.
A cyber security bill failed in Congress last year after business and privacy groups opposed it. The measure would have increased information-sharing between private companies and U.S. intelligence agencies and established voluntary standards for businesses that control power grids or water treatment plants.
Business groups said the legislation was government overreach. Privacy groups feared it might lead to Internet eavesdropping.
New cyber legislation is being considered, but it is unclear whether it will get through the gridlocked Congress.
President Barack Obama is expected to soon issue an executive order that would set up a voluntary system to help protect some critical infrastructure and offer incentives to companies that participate.
Traces of Reality: In anticipation of the destruction and devastation (digital or otherwise) sure to be launched by American psychopathic authoritarians in response to real or wholly imagined threats stemming from such a “cyber 9/11,” Iran has stepped up its pursuit of cyberwarfare capabilities following the fallout from Stuxnet and Flame. If 9/11/2001 can offer any insight, U.S. response to a “cyber 9/11″ will be hostile in the extreme and completely unfocused. -DB