Former director of the National Security Agency (NSA), John “Mike” McConnell said that United States officials have already been warned about a huge potential cyber attack that could have a tremendous negative impact on the country.
In an interview with the Financial Times on Sunday, McConnell said the warnings should serve as a wake-up call to American businesses and political leaders.
According to McConnell, such an attack would cripple the nation’s financial system, power grid, and other critical infrastructure such as planes and phone service.
“We have had our 9/11 warning. Are we going to wait for the cyber equivalent of the collapse of the World Trade Centers?” McConnell asked.
Also in the interview, McConnell said he is disappointed that Congress has yet to pass a comprehensive cyber security bill. However, the former NSA director said he expects President Obama to issue an executive order that will “at least get the government players and agencies working together.”
In addition to recent cyber attacks on U.S. corporations such as Google Inc, the Nasdaq stock exchange, Lockheed Martin Corp, financial institutions including Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America have reported serious cyber security breaches.
Repeated cyber attacks on U.S. government and military websites, including the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, FBI and other law enforcement agencies has sparked a sense of urgency by cyber security officials to address threats to U.S. computer networks.
Top U.S. military officials have frequently warned that cyber threats require more focus and regardless of the Pentagon budget woes, say more investment in cyber-security is critical.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey described constant breaches to U.S. cyber-security. Speaking at a forum in London In November 2011, Dempsey said:
“We’re under constant attack every day.”
In June, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning to American businesses about an unusually potent computer virus dubbed the “Flame,” which was responsible for the recent cyber attack on Iran’s oil industry. Cyber security experts said “the Flame” is strikingly similar to the Stuxnet virus, which was responsible for destroying several centrifuges used for Iran’s nuclear enrichment program in 2010.
U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta told business leaders at a meeting of the Business Executives for National Security last month that recent events signaled “a significant escalation of the cyber threat.” Secretary Panetta, like McConnell warned of the increasing vulnerability to foreign computer hackers who could dismantle the nation’s power grid, transportation system, financial networks and government.
In more than a decade since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, cyber security experts have repeatedly warned of the potential cyber doom to both private sector and public sector employers.
Computer security experts say the increasingly wireless phone only era poses more challenges to both private and public sector employers. Rather than trying trying to ban the use of cell phones and personal digital assistant (PDA) devices in the workplace, employers should focus on educating workers on the importance of securing mobile devices to protect against cyber threats.