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US experts make predictions about future homeland security threats

A panel of leading security experts have described a range of homeland threats that the United States will face in the coming years – such as terrorist acts by al Qaeda, its affiliates, Iran, and ‘lone wolves’. But the common thread was an attack on the cyber networks that underpin many of today’s critical infrastructure systems. Power grids were seen as particularly vulnerable areas.

The testimony came at the first in a series of hearings before the US Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee looking at the Department of Homeland Security’s past record and future plans.

“Attacks from cyberspace by rival nations, terrorists, criminal gangs and individual hackers are already costing us billions of dollars in economic damage through theft of money as well as intellectual property,” Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., said. “Beyond this dollar loss, there is the potential to use computers to sabotage critical infrastructure, like electric utilities and pipelines that could lead to loss of life and environmental and economic disasters. Congress must pass cybersecurity legislation now, before an attack occurs.”

Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, said: “Chairman Lieberman and I have been working with our colleagues on legislation to address the cyber threat to our nation’s most critical infrastructure, such as the power grid, nuclear facilities, water treatment plants, pipelines, and the transportation system. I cannot think of another area where the threat is greater and we’ve done less. We cannot afford wait for a ‘cyber 9/11’ before taking action on this much-needed legislation.”

Witnesses named other threats – from lone wolf attackers to bombs on transportation systems. But cyber threats dominated the discussion.

“We cannot fire-wall our way out of this problem,” said Frank Cilluffo, Director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University. ”We need a cyber-deterrence strategy.”

In addition to General Hayden and Cilluffo, other witnesses included Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Adviser to the President of the RAND Corporation; and Stephen Flynn, Founding Co-Director of the George Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security at Northeastern University.

Source: Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

•Date: 12th July 2012 • US •Type: Article • Topic: Critical infrastructure protection

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