Panetta: Urgency Needed to Defend Against Cyber Attacks

Friday, June 15, 2012

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The increasing threat of cyber attacks against the nation’s computer networks requires a commensurate growth in resources dedicated to protecting them, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told Congress.

“I think there has to be a greater sense of urgency with regards to the cyber potential, not only now but in the future,” Panetta told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense.

“Obviously it’s a rapidly developing area.”

Enemies launch hundreds of thousands of attacks every day on U.S. computer networks, government and non-government alike. “I'm very concerned at the potential in cyber to be able to cripple our power grid, to be able to cripple our government systems, to be able to cripple our financial systems,” Panetta said.

“It would virtually paralyze this country. And as far as I'm concerned, that represents the potential for another Pearl Harbor… using cyber.”

Testifying alongside Panetta, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the nature of cyber attacks has changed quickly. A few years ago, he said, hackers launched denial of service attacks on computer systems.

Today, sophisticated users, criminal groups and even nations participate in intellectual property and technology theft and have progressed to destructive cyber attacks. “I can't overstate my personal sense of urgency about that,” he said.

Panetta feels “very good” about DOD’s ability to defend its computer systems, but he is concerned about the security of non-governmental systems. “I think that's the area where we have to deal with the additional authorities,” he said.

Dempsey stressed that he, too, supports legislation that encourages information sharing with civilian systems. The chairman said the department has the authority it needs in the cyber world, but must develop rules of engagement that work at network speed.

“This is not something where we can afford to… convene a study after someone has knocked out the East Coast power grid,” he said.

Source:  Jim Garamone - American Forces Press Service

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Michael Johnson I think Panetta (and Richard Clarke for that matter) should add the following to their reading list:

Networking: A Beginner's Guide, Fourth Edition (Bruce Hallberg)

Computing Made Easy for the Over 50s (Terrie Chilvers)

Hopefully those books should provide them with much reassurance and answer most of their 'cyber' concerns.
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Bob Radvanovsky Panetta, like others, need to stop utilizing the word "cyber Pearl Harbor". Like most of the Congress critters, they seem to be stuck on several key words and phrases (of which, "critical infrastructure", "cyber security", and "terrorism" are just a few examples) that are used again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and ..., and ..., and ... Get the point? Individuals that repeatedly use (abuse and over-reuse) words or phrases again, and again, and again, and again, and ..., and ..., and ... -- IMHO, lack any understanding and comprehension behind the meaning of those words, what they represent, etc, etc, etc.

I might have a few suggestions in lieu of "cyber Pearl Harbor"...let's see:

(1) "cyber holocaust"

(2) "cyber apocalypse"

(3) "cybergeddon" (an Obamaism from "snowmageddon")

(4) "the cyber sky is falling"

(5) or better yet...how about this: "we really, REALLY want to take over the Internet so we can tax you more..."
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Chris Blask I don't think this drumbeat overstates the situation in the least. If anything, since we talk about this stuff all the time it is more likely that we understate it for a variety of reasons.

Not least of which is, as Rad says, we've heard this all before. The fallacy in our minds, though, is the idea that anyone else has ever heard it before, at all.

The lesson I learned in the late 90s was similar. Sure, everyone had said "Firewall" so often by that point that it was easy to imagine that particular ship had sailed with the whole world raptly glued to the screen, watching.

The reality was that deep into the next decade it was still possible to pack a room with people who had never had firewalls explained to them and very much needed to understand the concept.

Nobody has ever said anything out loud about critical infrastructure cybersecurity. As a percentage of overall cognitive cycles spent on all related topics, the time consumed by critical infrastructure cybersecurity isn't even a rounding error. Less than "the exception that proves the rule".

So much so, that it is important to have public figures use the same phrases repeatedly, so the memes soak into a wider awareness. We are not the ones who need to be informed - we've heard this all before - we are the ones who need to be informing everyone else. Even after we're tired of repeating ourselves.

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Michael Johnson The language Panetta et.al. are using make them sound like raving conspiracy theorists. Power outages? We've already had those on the rare occasion. Crippled financial system? Economic policy's doing a fine job of that already, while numerous data breaches have paled in comparison.

They're not explaining why a 'cyber Pearl Harbour' might be possible, how that would realistically be pulled off, and suggestions on preventing it.
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