That is what the former Director of National Intelligence told a Senate Panel yesterday. But that is not all, he also said, “We’re going to have a catastrophic event” before Americans are prompted to action according to a Business Week Article last night.
Unfortunately, he may be right. The US is becoming more and more dependent on internet services every year. We have had infiltration attempts on everything from our military contractors to our public utilities through the internet. Government officials have come forward and told the US that we are unprepared for cyber warfare again and again. Americans tend to be lulled into complacency and it is the large scale surprise attacks that spur us into action. It happened at Pearl Harbor and it happened at 9/11.
Different government agencies, from the Coast Guard to the Air Force are working on cyber defense plans. The problem is that when so many different agencies are responding in different ways, you get a stovepipe situation. Each agency responds in their own way and according to their own procedures. It is the equivalent of firefighters arriving at a massive inferno, only to find that each fireman is from a different country, has different equipment and speaks a different language. Utter chaos ensues.
Also, cyber defense is not just the government’s problem. Every American needs to do their part in securing their own networks. Simple things like making sure the latest software patches are installed and firewalls are configured properly go a long way. But this is just the start. Network owners, as a whole, need to be more vigilant. I once heard a saying that Israel doesn’t have hijackers on their planes, because they never let them on…
On the positive side, when something does happen in the US, we wake up, unite, and make a pretty powerful force. The government needs to put forth strong, united leadership and create plans and policy for cyber defense so when something large scale does happens it is met with a concise, rapid and effective response.