Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates recently described the threat of cyber attack as "huge" when addressing The Wall Street Journal's CEO council.
Gates also revealed plans for the the DHS to engage the NSA in more domestic cyber security operations.
From a transcript of Gates' statements at the WSJ event:
"Well, I -- first of all, I think there is a -- there is a huge future threat, and there is a considerable current threat. And that's just the reality that we all face. I think the challenge we have -- we've taken some steps where I think we have arrived at some pretty good protections for dot-mil. We are working with our partners in the defense industrial base to bring them under that umbrella, to provide them with protection. And just a few weeks ago, the president approved a memorandum of understanding that Secretary Napolitano and I worked out."
"The key is the only defense the United States has, I think, in -- against nation states and other potential threats in the cyberworld is the National Security Agency. You cannot replicate the National Security Agency for domestic affairs. There isn't enough money, there isn't enough time and there isn't enough human talent. So how do you let the domestic side of the government have access to the asset that NSA represents, while at the same time taking into account the concerns for privacy and civil liberties?"
"And what our memorandum of understanding does is create a Department of Homeland Security cell in NSA that has the authority to task NSA, but to do so with their own lawyers present and so on, in terms of ways that will protect privacy and civil liberties. So you have the domestic security agency, DHS, being able to reach into NSA, in a real-time way, to get the kind of protections that we need. And my hope is that over time, that this will lead to better protections for both dot-gov and dot-com."
Gates' statements follow reports that attacks against systems that control critical infrastructure are on the increase, and that legislation has been proposed that would give the DHS power to enforce security standards for companies in that sector.