During a Wednesday talk moderated by The Washington Post, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano likened the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy to the consequences of a potential cyber attack on the nation’s critical infrastructure.
Her remarks are the latest from an Obama administration eager to sell an upcoming new executive order on cybersecurity.
“If you think a control-system attack that takes down a utility even for a few hours is not serious, just look at what is happening now that Mother Nature has taken out those utilities,” she said.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta also recently warned of a potential “cyber 9/11,”or a “Digital Pearl Harbor” — phrases that have long been used in the cybersecurity industry to evoke images of what a worst case scenario would look like.
President Barack Obama also used graphic imagery in a July op-ed that scared many about a potential cyber-attack-induced mass disaster involving the nation’s transportation and utility systems.
While there is widespread industry, bureaucratic and military agreement that a solution to the problem must be devised, conflict persists over what kind of solution is necessary.
For example, a Government Accountability Office report released in July stated that utility companies, encumbered by the legal burdens of regulatory compliance, were unable to focus on cybersecurity requirements.