A decade after releasing its report on U.S. unpreparedness ahead of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the 9/11 Commission has released a new assessment on the growing threat of cyber-terrorism.
“One lesson of the 9/11 story is that, as a nation, Americans did not awaken to the gravity of the terrorist threat until it was too late,” the commission wrote in a new report on the 10th anniversary of the original, which revealed the intelligence failures that led to the hijacking of four planes by Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist organization.
“History may be repeating itself in the cyber realm.”
Military and intelligence officials including recently retired U.S. Cyber Command and National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have repeatedly warned the U.S. is vulnerable to a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” scale attack on its digital front, according to The Hill. (RELATED: Congressman Accuses Ex-NSA Head Of Trading Secrets ‘For Profit’)
One unnamed former agency official quoted in the report said the U.S. is at “September 10th levels in terms of cyber preparedness,” as evidenced by multiple successful cyber attacks on U.S. defense and infrastructure companies in recent years, which have been traced back to countries including China and Russia. (RELATED: US Charges Chinese Army Hackers With Stealing Secrets)
“As the country becomes ever more dependent on digital services for the functioning of critical infrastructure, business, education, finances, communications, and social connections, the Internet’s vulnerabilities are outpacing the nation’s ability to secure it,” the commission wrote.
Though far from solved, various government and private sector attempts are being made to address the problems.
Alexander is partnering with Wall Street firms as a consultant to head off such an attack against the financial industry, which could threaten to cripple the country economically for a period of time. The Obama administration has recently begun charging individual Chinese military hackers with cyber-espionage, and Congress is in the midst of hamming out a cyber-security bill allowing the government and private companies to share information on vulnerabilities.