Most of the new report’s observations focused on counterterrorism, the central focus of the 9/11 Commission. But in speaking with many of the nation’s most senior national-security leaders, we were struck that every one of these experts expressed concern about another issue: daily cyberattacks against the country’s most sensitive public and private computer networks.
A growing chorus of national-security experts describes the cyber realm as the battlefield of the future. American life is becoming evermore dependent on the Internet. At the same time, government and private computer networks in the U.S. are under relentless cyberattack. This is more than an academic concern—attacks in the digital world can inflict serious damage in the physical world. Hackers can threaten the control systems of critical facilities like dams, water-treatment plants and the power grid. A hacker able to remotely control a dam, pumping station or oil pipeline could unleash large-scale devastation. As terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State grow and become more sophisticated, the threat of cyberattack increases as well.
On a smaller scale, but equally unsettling, ordinary building systems like electronic door locks, elevators and video-surveillance cameras (today, present in many homes) are also vulnerable to penetration by hackers. Even life-sustaining medical devices, many of which contain embedded computer systems connected to the Internet, could be disabled by cyberattacks. Read the rest of this entry »