Cyber attacks against the United States are increasing swiftly and may now be the biggest threat to national security, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said May 30.
“This is a very difficult but real and dangerous threat,” Hagel told about 200 U.S. troops at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. “And there’s no higher priority for our country … than this issue.”
Cyber attacks have quickly emerged as a key danger that could “paralyze an electric grid, a banking system, knock out computers on ships or weapons systems, and you never fire a shot,” Hagel said. He added that “very few people 10 years ago — very few people eight years ago, six years ago — would have rated cyber challenges, dangers as maybe the biggest threat to all of us.”
He noted that cyber warfare is one of the few items in President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 defense budget request to Congress that would get more money. The request calls for spending $4.7 billion on cyber operations in FY ‘14, up from $3.9 billion in FY ’13.
Hagel’s comments came the same day the Pentagon denied recent media reports that Chinese computer hackers have compromised America’s technological edge by gaining access to advanced weapon system designs. Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that “we have absolute confidence in our systems.” He added, “Suggestions that any of these intrusions have led to an erosion of our capabilities is incorrect.”
Highlighting the importance of cybersecurity to the United States and its allies, the issue is expected to be a centerpiece of NATO’s ministerial meeting June 4-5 in Brussels.
“We live in a world … where one country’s just not big enough, strong enough, good enough, wealthy enough to handle it all,” Hagel said.
SUBSCRIBE!. To receive future articles by this writer, click “Subscribe” above. Follow him on Twitter.