This past week a respected cyber information security specialist Tarah Wheeler warned that there will soon be a cyber attack that is absolutely devastating in its effect on the United States. The scale of it will be so enormous that it will receive its own name like “9/11” and “Pearl Harbor.”
Speaking at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual meeting in Paris, Wheeler warned:
“The more I speak to people, the more they think that the next Pearl Harbor is going to be a cyber attack. I think that the most horrifying cyber security attack is going to have its own name, and I think it’s going to involve something more terrifying than we’ve thought of yet.”
The Principal Security Adviser and CEO of Red Queen Technologies (as well as a cyber security fellow at New America, the Washington D.C. headquartered think thank), Wheeler is especially worried about transportation and critical infrastructure in the U.S. in particular.
It would be bad enough if Wheeler were a lone voice crying in the wilderness, but this is far from the case. There is not one report out of technology researchers and firms in the field that believes the cyber threats are becoming less dangerous or significant.
Quite the contrary is true. The Global Risks Report 2018 by the WEF World Economic Forum listed cyber warfare and attacks as among the biggest threats of disruption over the coming five years. The only events that rank as high or higher are extreme weather and natural disasters.
Their report warned that “In a worst case scenario, attackers could trigger a breakdown in the systems that keep societies functioning.”Among the high-value targets to hackers (either state-sponsored or small terrorist groups) are crucial infrastructure such as water purification and distribution systems and power grids, as well as critical industry.
Former Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, the Retired NATO Admiral James Stavridis agreed with such warnings in a prior interview on the subject:
“We’re headed toward a cyber Pearl Harbor, and it is going to come at either the grid or on the financial sector… we need to think about this cyber attack as a pandemic.”
Security firms are sounding the alarms routinely as well. AI concentrated security company BluVector revealed this February that nearly 40 percent of all critical infrastructure and industrial control systems were subjected to one or more cyber attacks during the last six months of year 2017. Eventually the hackers will break through the under- prepared defenses by sheer numbers of efforts alone. Any way you analyze this, it is a scary proposition for the future.
Defense giant Raytheon International’s Chief Executive John Harris recently labeled the cyber attacks as the “single biggest threat to global security. The more we are connected, the more we are vulnerable.”
Just this March, President Trump’s administration accused Russia of being behind a series of cyber attacks that lasted for two years and targeted the indispensable American power grid. Other internationally-based assaults (such as the WannCry virus) impacted an incredible 300,000 computers in more than 150 nations. NotPetya (a supposedly Russian-sponsored cyber attack) inflicted $300 million worth of damage on multinational firms.
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