a systematic shutdown of the nationâ€™s vital communication and utilities infrastructure. According to the former counterterrorism czar Richard A. Clarke, however, itâ€™s a scenario that could happen in real life â€” and it could all go down in 15 minutes. While the United States has a first-rate cyberoffense capacity, he says, its lack of a credible defense system, combined with the countryâ€™s heavy reliance on technology, makes it highly susceptible to a devastating cyberattack.
Lest this sound like the augury of an alarmist, the reader might recall that Mr. Clarke, counterterrorism chief in both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, repeatedly warned his superiors about the need for an aggressive plan to combat al Qaeda â€” with only a pallid response before 9/11. He recounted this campaign in his controversial 2004 book, â€œAgainst All Enemies.â€
a harrowing â€” and persuasive â€” picture of the cyberthreat the United States faces today
F.B.I. was looking into Qaeda sympathizers who want to develop their hacking skills and appear to want to target the United Statesâ€™ infrastructure.
North Korea is suspected of being behind the cyberattacks of July 2009 that took down the Web servers of the Treasury, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department
The United Statesâ€™ lack of an effective cyberdefense system, Mr. Clarke ominously warns, â€œwill tempt opponents to attack in a period of tensions,â€ and it could also tempt America to take pre-emptive action or escalate a cyberconflict very rapidly if attacked. Were such a war to start, it could easily jump international boundaries, causing cascades of collateral damage to unspool around the world.
cyberspace â€œold handsâ€ â€” former government officials, current bureaucrats, chief security officers of major corporations, academics and senior information technology company officials
logic bombs and trapdoors are quite likely already in place, â€œso we will not be able to see it coming and block it with the systems we have now or those that are planned. Yes, we may be able to respond in kind, but our nation will still be devastated by a massive cyberattack on civilian infrastructure that smacks down power grids for weeks, halts trains, grounds aircraft, explodes pipelines and sets fire to refineries.â€