Cyber security is a subject of growing intrigue and great importance. I mentioned in a recent article that Obama is expected to sign an executive order that would establish programs in which companies operating critical infrastructures would work towards securing their systems and draft a set of security guidelines. The White House has not confirmed when President Obama will sign the order, but reports suggest it will happen very soon.
Obama’s cyber security order has been in limbo for a number of weeks and the buzz around cyber security is still growing. According to an article on itworld.com, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta explained in a meeting of the Business Executives for National Security (BENS) that the U.S. is facing a growing threat of cyber security attacks—attacks that could be as deadly and startling as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Panetta warned that a cyber attack on the United States could potentially paralyze the nation. Citing the recent “Shamoon” malware attack, Panetta asked members of the audience to imagine what type of impact a similar attack would have on their own business, explaining that with over 30,000 computers infected and rendered unusable, the Shamoon attack was likely the most destructive cyber attack the private sector has ever seen.
He also highlighted weaknesses in the infrastructure as well, explaining that the Department of Defense has recorded specific instances in which hackers gained access to critical infrastructure systems. Panetta also laid out a scenario in which multiple cyber attacks could occur simultaneously and perhaps in conjunction with a physical attack which would result in what he called a “cyber Pearl Harbor.”
Currently, much of the U.S. critical infrastructure is controlled by the private sector and some by the federal government. Obama’s security order would create a panel in which the private businesses and federal government can establish security standards and guidelines to keep all the critical infrastructure systems safe from threats, though more legislation may be needed to ensure that our entire critical infrastructure is fortified as various threats grow.