The U.S. warned Tuesday of a "revolution" of computer hacking threats against the country from foreign governments and non-state actors like the so-called Islamic State, and it issued new guidelines to protect American interests.
A White House directive outlined a five-point scale to assess the severity of new attacks, the degree to which a cyber security breach might affect national government operations, municipal utilities, private corporations or other U.S. interests.
The new effort, years in the making, would assign six levels of severity to any breach, such as a level three or above incident that would be considered "significant" and trigger quick government action. The worst-case scenario was seen as one that would pose an imminent threat to wide-scale critical infrastructure in the country, the stability of the government or lives of Americans.
"To put it bluntly, we are in the midst of a revolution of the cyber threat, one that is growing more persistent, more diverse, more frequent and more dangerous every day," White House counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco told a cyber security conference in New York.
"Unless we act together - government, industry and citizens - we risk a world where malicious cyber activity could threaten our security and prosperity," she said. "That is not a future we should accept."
Monaco named Russia and China as cyber adversaries, while also noting that Iran and North Korea are capable and willing to carry out destructive attacks, as well as "hacktivists" who are not necessarily aligned with a foreign interest.
The new directive comes as U.S. Democratic Party officials are claiming that "Russian state actors" hacked into nearly 20,000 emails at the party's Washington headquarters. The messages, released last weekend by WikiLeaks, showed that party leaders undermined the presidential campaign of an upstart challenger, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, in his long and eventually unsuccessful contest against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the party's nominee in the November national election.
Monaco said there will be a thorough investigation of the Democratic Party security breach "and I'm sure there will be more to say later." The FBI is looking into the cyber attack, but Moscow on Tuesday rejected any contention that it was involved.