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10/18/2012

The Cybersecurity Threat

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in a speech in New York City, Oct. 11, 2012

---

I know that when people think of cybersecurity today, they worry about hackers and criminals who prowl the Internet, steal people’s identities, steal sensitive business information, steal even national security secrets. Those threats are real and they exist today.

But the even greater danger – the greater danger facing us in cyberspace goes beyond crime and it goes beyond harassment. A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremists groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack on 9/11. Such a destructive cyber-terrorist attack could virtually paralyze the nation.

Let me give you some examples of the kinds of attacks that we have already experienced.

In recent weeks, as many of you know, some large U.S. financial institutions were hit by so-called Distributed Denial of Service attacks. These attacks delayed or disrupted services on customer websites. While this kind of tactic isn’t new, the scale and speed with which it happened was unprecedented.

But even more alarming is an attack that happened two months ago when a very sophisticated virus called Shamoon infected computers in the Saudi Arabia State Oil Company Aramco. Shamoon included a routine called a ‘wiper,’ coded to self-execute. This routine replaced crucial systems files with an image of a burning U.S. flag. But it also put additional garbage data that overwrote all the real data on the machine. More than 30,000 computers that it infected were rendered useless and had to be replaced. It virtually destroyed 30,000 computers.

Then just days after this incident, there was a similar attack on RasGas of Qatar, a major energy company in the region. All told, the Shamoon virus was probably the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date.

Imagine the impact an attack like that would have on your company or your business.

These attacks mark a significant escalation of the cyber threat and they have renewed concerns about still more destructive scenarios that could unfold.

For example, we know that foreign cyber actors 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 this country.

We know of specific instances where intruders have successfully gained access to these control systems.

We also know that they are seeking to create advanced tools to attack these systems and cause panic and destruction and even the loss of life.

Let me explain how this could unfold. An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches. They could, for example, derail passenger trains or even more dangerous, derail trains loaded with lethal chemicals.

They could contaminate the water supply in major cities or shutdown the power grid across large parts of the country.

The most destructive scenarios involve cyber actors launching several attacks on our critical infrastructure at one time, in combination with a physical attack on our country. Attackers could also seek to disable or degrade critical military systems and communication networks.

The collective result of these kinds of attacks could be a cyber Pearl Harbor; an attack that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life. In fact, it would paralyze and shock the nation and create a new, profound sense of vulnerability.

As director of the CIA and now Secretary of Defense, I have understood that cyber attacks are every bit as real as the more well-known threats like terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferation and the turmoil that we see in the Middle East.

And the cyber threats facing this country are growing. With dramatic advances, this is an area of dramatic developments in cyber technology. With that happening, potential aggressors are exploiting vulnerabilities in our security. But the good news is this, we are aware of this potential.   Our eyes are wide open to these kinds of threats and we are a nation that, thank God, is on the cutting edge of this new technology. We are the best and we have to stay there.

Source: defense.gov

Hot Spots will return in two weeks.

Brian Trumbore


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-10/18/2012-      
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Hot Spots

10/18/2012

The Cybersecurity Threat

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in a speech in New York City, Oct. 11, 2012

---

I know that when people think of cybersecurity today, they worry about hackers and criminals who prowl the Internet, steal people’s identities, steal sensitive business information, steal even national security secrets. Those threats are real and they exist today.

But the even greater danger – the greater danger facing us in cyberspace goes beyond crime and it goes beyond harassment. A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremists groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack on 9/11. Such a destructive cyber-terrorist attack could virtually paralyze the nation.

Let me give you some examples of the kinds of attacks that we have already experienced.

In recent weeks, as many of you know, some large U.S. financial institutions were hit by so-called Distributed Denial of Service attacks. These attacks delayed or disrupted services on customer websites. While this kind of tactic isn’t new, the scale and speed with which it happened was unprecedented.

But even more alarming is an attack that happened two months ago when a very sophisticated virus called Shamoon infected computers in the Saudi Arabia State Oil Company Aramco. Shamoon included a routine called a ‘wiper,’ coded to self-execute. This routine replaced crucial systems files with an image of a burning U.S. flag. But it also put additional garbage data that overwrote all the real data on the machine. More than 30,000 computers that it infected were rendered useless and had to be replaced. It virtually destroyed 30,000 computers.

Then just days after this incident, there was a similar attack on RasGas of Qatar, a major energy company in the region. All told, the Shamoon virus was probably the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date.

Imagine the impact an attack like that would have on your company or your business.

These attacks mark a significant escalation of the cyber threat and they have renewed concerns about still more destructive scenarios that could unfold.

For example, we know that foreign cyber actors 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 this country.

We know of specific instances where intruders have successfully gained access to these control systems.

We also know that they are seeking to create advanced tools to attack these systems and cause panic and destruction and even the loss of life.

Let me explain how this could unfold. An aggressor nation or extremist group could use these kinds of cyber tools to gain control of critical switches. They could, for example, derail passenger trains or even more dangerous, derail trains loaded with lethal chemicals.

They could contaminate the water supply in major cities or shutdown the power grid across large parts of the country.

The most destructive scenarios involve cyber actors launching several attacks on our critical infrastructure at one time, in combination with a physical attack on our country. Attackers could also seek to disable or degrade critical military systems and communication networks.

The collective result of these kinds of attacks could be a cyber Pearl Harbor; an attack that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life. In fact, it would paralyze and shock the nation and create a new, profound sense of vulnerability.

As director of the CIA and now Secretary of Defense, I have understood that cyber attacks are every bit as real as the more well-known threats like terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferation and the turmoil that we see in the Middle East.

And the cyber threats facing this country are growing. With dramatic advances, this is an area of dramatic developments in cyber technology. With that happening, potential aggressors are exploiting vulnerabilities in our security. But the good news is this, we are aware of this potential.   Our eyes are wide open to these kinds of threats and we are a nation that, thank God, is on the cutting edge of this new technology. We are the best and we have to stay there.

Source: defense.gov

Hot Spots will return in two weeks.

Brian Trumbore