With the awareness starting to spread about cybersecurity, Leon Panetta predicted this would happen…attacks on governments, water treatment plants, gas pipelines, etc. It was really taken as hyperbolic and maybe some of it was, but as time progresses and hackers and thieves get better, it’s starting to happen. Who ever thought there would be a cyber attack that would affect the pocket books of all Americans?  Did you ever think gas prices would go up over a cyber attack?

Leon Panetta Predicted this

In the past few months, hackers were caught messing with the chemical controls at a water treatment plant in Florida, in what appeared to be an attempt to contaminate the water supply just before Super Bowl weekend in Tampa. Ransomware attacks are striking every eight minutes, crippling hospitals, police departments, NBA basketball and minor league baseball teams, even ferries to Martha’s Vineyard. This past week, the targets were one of the world’s largest meatpacking operators and the hospital that serves The Villages in Florida, America’s largest retirement community. The week before that, it was the pipeline operator that carries half the gas, jet fuel and diesel to the East Coast, in an attack that forced the pipeline to shut down, triggered panic buying and gas shortages and was just days from bringing mass transit and chemical refineries to their knees.  

And those are just the attacks we see. Beneath the surface, U.S. businesses are quietly paying off their digital extortionists and burying breaches in hopes that they never see the light of day. China continues to cart off America’s intellectual property, most recently in an aggressive cyber assault on the defense industrial base and, curiously, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Russia’s government hackers have shut off the power in Ukraine twice. They’ve reached the control switches at American power plants, and breached nuclear plants, too. And Russia’s elite intelligence agency, the SVR, slithered its way through hundreds of U.S. companies and government agencies for nine months before it was caught. In the process, it wrecked confidence in the software supply chain. And, officials concede, its agents are quite likely still inside.

Before Panetta served as defense secretary, he was director of the CIA. During his tenure there, in 2009 and 2011, the United States, in partnership with Israel, set in motion the first major act of cyber destruction against Iran. That attack, which began under President George W. Bush but accelerated under the Obama administration, used a computer worm called Stuxnet to infiltrate the computers that controlled the rotors that spun Iran’s uranium centrifuges at Natanz nuclear facility. Over a period of many months, Stuxnet sped the centrifuges up, while slowing others down, in a series of attacks designed to look like natural accidents.

It was in the midst of those attacks that October that Panetta gave his “Pearl Harbor” speech.

“It was like looking behind you and seeing that what you created could very well come back to get you,” Panetta said. “Once those capabilities fell into the wrong hands, I was witnessing firsthand how they could be used to really hurt us, to damage our country, our national security, and was still frustrated by the failure to have a coordinated approach to dealing with the threat.”

A decade later, he’s still frustrated. “It’s like there’s a fire and you’re ringing a bell, but the fire department doesn’t show,” he said.

Parts of this blog were copied from The Buffalo News.