American war minister Panetta warned Thursday that his country was facing the possibility of a "cyber-Pearl Harbor" and was increasingly vulnerable to foreign computer hackers who could dismantle the nation's power grid, transportation system, financial networks and government.
In a speech in New York, the war minister told how such an attack on America might unfold. He said he was reacting to increasing aggressiveness and technological advances by the nation's adversaries, which officials identified, among others as Russia.
"An aggressor nation... could gain control of critical switches and derail passenger trains, or trains loaded with lethal chemicals", Panetta said. "They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country".
War ministry officials insisted that Panetta's words were not hyperbole and that he was responding to a recent wave of cyber attacks on large US financial institutions. He also cited an attack in August on the state oil company Saudi Aramco, which infected and made useless more than 30,000 computers.
"If we detect an imminent threat of attack that will cause significant physical destruction in the United States or kill American citizens, we need to have the option to take action against those who would kill us", the war minister said.
The most destructive possibilities, Panetta said, involves "cyberactors launching several attacks on our critical infrastructure at once, in combination with a physical attack on our country." He described the collective result as a "cyber-Pearl Harbor that would cause physical destruction and loss of life, paralyze and shock the nation and create a profound new sense of vulnerability".
"The US military is permitted to act pre-emptively if it detects an imminent threat of cyber attack. The Department of Defense had a mission to defend the country and would be ready to respond to attacks", he said
It should be mentioned in this context that Russian KGB cyber terrorists have been continuously attacking the Kavkaz Center with DDoS since June 6 this year, using millions of computers worldwide, infected by malware from "antiviruses" of Kaspersky Lab, a KGB company operating in the West. Experts do not exclude a possibility that the Russians are now testing their capabilities to attack America.
Department of Monitoring