News / Science & Technology

Panetta Says US Boosting Cyber Defense

US Defense Secretary Lean Panetta after a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, October 10, 2012.US Defense Secretary Lean Panetta after a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, October 10, 2012.
x
US Defense Secretary Lean Panetta after a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, October 10, 2012.
US Defense Secretary Lean Panetta after a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, October 10, 2012.
Luis Ramirez
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has revealed some details of U.S. plans to deal with a massive cyber attack. Those plans include launching a possible cyber-offensive in what some analysts say is a message to Iran.
 
With thousands of enemy cyber-actors probing the Pentagon’s systems millions of times a day, the secretary of defense has spoken about the threat of a massive cyber attack before. But his warnings late Thursday in New York have been the strongest yet.
 
“This is a pre-9/11 moment. The attackers are plotting,” said Panetta.
 
Panetta said it is no secret that Russia and China have advanced cyber capabilities and he said Iran has also undertaken concerted efforts to use cyberspace to its advantage.
 
U.S. officials have blamed Iran for a massive cyberattack two months ago on systems at the Saudi company Aramco and a natural gas company in Qatar. The assault, known as Shamoon, infected 30,000 computers.
 
In his remarks Thursday, Panetta did not link Iran to the Shamoon attacks, which he said mark a significant escalation of the cyberthreat - and even more destructive scenarios that could unfold. Among these: train derailments, the shutdown of power grids, and the contamination of water supplies. 
 
He said the United States has taken steps to be ready for a strike on U.S. installations.  He said the Pentagon would - in some instances - not wait for an attack before it launches an offensive.
 
“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 attack us to defend this nation when directed by the president,” said Panetta.
 
Panetta said the U.S. military has pumped $3 billion into cyber security efforts that include the recruitment of an army of cyber-warriors to fight off attacks.
 
Gary Schmitt, a security analyst at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, sees Panetta’s strong remarks as a message for Iran.
 
“This is Secretary Panetta essentially saying ‘this is enough.’ It somewhat reminds you that cyber warfare is the kind of warfare that impinges on being terrorism,” said Schmitt. “So, Iran, the tens of thousands of computers that it shut down in the Gulf, it would be the same thing as if an Iranian agent were to throw a bomb into a room with a variety of servers.”
 
Critics of that message include George Smith, a cyber specialist at Globalsecurity.org, whose job for several years has been to analyze the U.S. government’s assessments of cyberthreats. He said Iran’s capabilities are not as developed as those of the United States, and he believes issuing warnings about cyber attacks may actually encourage Tehran to launch them.
 
“They came to the game late. In cyberspace, it’s basically an arms race, so people are going to be spurred by what they perceive other people to be doing.”
 
Panetta is urging Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation that would allow for information sharing between the private sector and the government. The bill has been stuck in a political battle. In the meantime, he said the White House may put out an executive order to enforce some elements of the measure.

Here's a history of some major cyber attacks:

Ongoing - Since mid-2006, Operation Shady RAT attacks have targeted 72 organizations, including governments and defense contractors.

July 2011 - SK Communications, a South Korean communications company, is hacked, resulting in the theft of personal details of up to 35 million people.

November 2010 - The Indian Cyber Army allegedly targeted websited of the Pakistan Army and several other ministries, including education, finance and foreign affairs. A month later the Pakistan Cyber Army attacked India’s Central Bureau of Investigation.

November 2010 - Massive volumes of Defense Department data is rerouted through China for 18 minutes. China denied any involvement.

September 2010 - The Stuxnet worm attacks Iran's Natanz nuclear facility, specifically targeting centrifuges related to uranium enrichment. Described as the most advanced piece of malware ever devised, some have speculated it was developed by U.S. and Israeli intelligence.

January 2010 - Google reports the loss of intellectual property after an attack on its infrastructure. The attack purportedly originated in China.

July 2009 - A series of coordinated denial of service attacks against target government, financial and media websites in South Korea and the U.S.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: American Mom from: USA
October 12, 2012 5:41 PM
with all due respect to the US Obama administration... I would be much happier and feel much safer to learn that our "intelligence" is being checked against Israeli Intelligence... call me old fashioned... but after almost a month after the Benghazi disaster, we know nothing... and just few minutes after the Hizbullah drone was shoot down in Israel - Iranian engineers of drone components have started committing "suicide" in Iran... I think i stick with Israeli Intelligence...

by: PK from: Anaheim Hills, Ca
October 12, 2012 12:15 PM
The worlds largest internet router manufacturer(Cisco) is already embracing China, and we are alowing them to provide pieces of our telecommunications infrastructure,...why? The corporate greed is inexplicable, and at the expense of america's future.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs