Critical infrastructure central to cyber threat: "Critical infrastructure central to cyber threat
The United States is increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks that could have catastrophic effects on critical physical infrastructure, and severely damage the country’s economic, military and strategic interests, cybersecurity specialists said today.
The conventional strategic thinking that has driven defense efforts over the past century is becoming irrelevant in today’s networked world, according to specialists from the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit (US-CCU), who spoke at the GovSec, U.S. Law and Ready Conference and Exposition today in Washington.
Borg said the distinction between physical and information attacks is disappearing, and he cited the lasting effects the terrorist attacks of 2001 had on the information technology infrastructure. Borg said Industrial-era distinctions between the local and the remote, personal and public communications, and military and economic targets are fading and very sophisticated cyberattacks could damage major nations. Scalable cyberattacks could physically destroy large numbers of electricity generators that would take years to replace, Borg said, adding that if a sizable region’s electricity was shut down for an extended period, a majority of that economy would shut down and people likely would die. Security experts worry that last spring’s denial-of-service attacks on facilities in Estonia may be a precursor. Developed countries are considered to be most susceptible to the threats.“Looking at the many wake-up calls that the international community has had over the past decade…I would say that we have entered an era of cyberterror and perhaps even an era of cyberwar,” said Lauri Almann, Estonia’s Permanent Undersecretary of Defence, at the conference.Also, cybersecurity specialists warned that a cyberattack could cause greater economic and physical damage than the United States has suffered.“We are talking about things much bigger than the Great Depression,” said Borg. “We are talking about consequences that are only exceeded by use of nuclear weapons.” His colleague at US-CCU, John Bumgarner, said attacks that could cripple an entire industry can be carried out by a handful of knowledgeable people. The specialists said the primary target of cyberattacks presently is business information that has been consolidated in a company’s information system. This can allow thieves to open a new factory with the exact specifications and settings it took the business they victimized years to perfect. [...]