FBI Director Predicts Cyber Attacks Will Be Top Threat to U.S.

Sue Marquette Poremba
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Key Cyber Risk Oversight Recommendations for Boards and Senior Executives

Cybersecurity is generating a lot of conversation among those working inside the Washington Beltway. Now you can add the FBI director to the list of those in government who want to see more focus on cybersecurity; although, his approach is a little different than those in Congress.


Robert Mueller spoke at the RSA Conference and was quoted in PC Magazine as saying:

Terrorism remains the FBI's top priority. But in the not too distant future, we anticipate that the cyber threat will pose the number one threat to our country.

Mueller wants to use lessons learned in fighting terrorism and apply them to preventing cyber attacks. He isn't talking about hackers like Anonymous, but rather attacks conducted by state-sponsored organizations. According to PC World:

Mueller said state-sponsored hackers are patient and calculating. They have the time, the money and the resources to burrow in, and to wait. They may come and go, conducting reconnaissance and exfiltrating bits of seemingly innocuous information -- information that in the aggregate may be of high value. "You may discover one breach, only to find that the real damage has been done at a much higher level," he said.

Perhaps most at risk is the country's critical infrastructure, a point which the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, made, saying that a well-planned and well-executed cyber attack could bring down the nation's power grid. Or the financial industry. Or telecommunications.


Last week, the White House simulated a cyber attack on New York's power grid to show what could happen. The White House's mock attack was for the benefit of U.S. senators who are currently debating cybersecurity legislation, but I think that it followed closely with the speeches by Mueller and Panetta, which show that government is becoming more vocal about cybersecurity - not just that we need to do a better job in protecting the nation's networks, but explaining that it may no longer be a matter of "if" we are attacked, but "when" it happens and we better be prepared.


When I read about the Mueller speech and the mock attack on the New York power grid, I admit, I thought the administration was going a little overboard with the scare tactics. But perhaps it worked. The national media are talking about cybersecurity now in ways they haven't before, which (hopefully) means that more citizens will understand the importance of good security.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 13, 2012 3:55 AM Brian Russell Brian Russell  says:

More vocal, maybe. More action-oriented, that's to be seen. It's a bit difficult to believe, when so recently it was publicized that NASA lost an unencrypted laptop carrying sensitive, critical information about the International Space Station, and many government agencies I've encountered, with access to very critical data about you and I, are still plugging away with IE6. Talk is cheap, but action ...


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