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Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warns of 'cyber Pearl Harbor'

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Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta
Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warns that a threat mounted from the internet "could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11," according to Stars and Stripes. Panetta goes on to detail how the "whole of government" is taking steps to prepare for the possibility of attacks conducted against utility or transport systems, the results of which would lead to a "cyber Pearl Harbor." In light of the potential threats, the government has reportedly created "the world’s most sophisticated system to detect cyber intruders or attackers" in order to prevent any such attacks. Panetta also issues a challenge to would-be attackers, saying that "the United States has the capacity to locate them and hold them accountable for actions that harm America or its interests."

The high-ranking official even cited the recent Shamoon virus, which targeted and crippled the internal systems of a state-owned oil company in Saudi Arabia. Before finishing his speech, the Defense Secretary urged Congress to pursue legislation such as the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, a bill that failed to pass the Senate in August following concerns from privacy advocates. The speech may be a bullish deterrent for so called "cyber warriors," but it also reaffirms how seriously the world's largest superpower is taking internet security.