Panetta: Sense of
Urgency Needed to Defend Against Cyber Attacks
June 13, 2012
The increasing threat of cyber
attacks against the nation’s computer networks requires a commensurate
growth in resources dedicated to protecting them, Defense Secretary Leon
E. Panetta told Congress.
Secretary Leon E. Panetta testifies before the Senate Appropriations
Committee's defense subcommittee concerning the fiscal year 2013 budget
in Washington, D.C., June 13, 2012. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett
“I think there has to be a greater sense of urgency with regards to the
cyber potential, not only now but in the future,” Panetta told the
Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense. “Obviously it’s a rapidly
Enemies launch hundreds of thousands of attacks every day on U.S.
computer networks, government and non-government alike. “I'm very
concerned at the potential in cyber to be able to cripple our power
grid, to be able to cripple our government systems, to be able to
cripple our financial systems,” Panetta said. “It would virtually
paralyze this country. And as far as I'm concerned, that represents the
potential for another Pearl Harbor … using cyber.”
Testifying alongside Panetta, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the nature of cyber attacks has
changed quickly. A few years ago, he said, hackers launched denial of
service attacks on computer systems. Today, sophisticated users,
criminal groups and even nations participate in intellectual property
and technology theft and have progressed to destructive cyber attacks.
“I can't overstate my personal sense of urgency about that,” he said.
feels “very good” about DOD’s ability to defend its computer systems,
but he is concerned about the security of non-governmental systems. “I
think that's the area where we have to deal with the additional
authorities,” he said.
Dempsey stressed that he, too, supports legislation that encourages
information sharing with civilian systems.
The chairman said the department has the authority it needs in the cyber
world, but must develop rules of engagement that work at network speed.
“This is not something where we can afford to … convene a study after
someone has knocked out the East Coast power grid,” he said.