"Cyber 9/11" risk warning
A cyber "September 11" has been predicted by Mike McConnell, a former director of the US National Security Agency. McConnell has warned that an attack on information infrastructure - with an impact equivalent to the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York - will happen, owing to neglect of the country's critical networks.
McConnell's comments follow a recent warning by US cyber-security expert Richard Clarke that the new Department of Homeland Security lacks resources and expertise to fight cyber terrorism.
McConnell, who is vice-president and director of management consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton's Infrastructure Assurance Centre of Excellence, said that both the US and Australia have neglected their critical information infrastructure.
While visiting Australia recently, he said companies were too afraid of public exposure to share the information necessary to combat attacks on their networks.
"Every institution has been created as a result of some crisis," McConnell said. "We as a society tend not to be proactive but to be reactive."
McConnell said until "there is a cyber 9/11", or "without something that serves as a forcing issue", governments and the private sector would not be prepared for attack.
McConnell said tests had shown that computer experts with the right equipment could bring the US economy to its knees.
"If we don't raise our standards and level of protection we are inviting cyber terrorism. There is a level of vulnerability that has not been mitigated."
Two weeks ago the general manager of Australia's Computer Emergency Response Team, Graham Ingram, said Australia had neglected its cyber infrastructure while Asia was spending huge amounts of money to protect its own.
Clarke raised concerns that law-makers had a tendency to dismiss the consequences of a network attack and urged the Bush Administration to set up a national cyber-security centre.
His comments are in line with those made by Mike Rothery, the senior national information-infrastructure adviser at the information and security law division of the federal Attorney-General's department.
Rothery said that decision-makers were sceptical about the cyber threat.
McConnell said there was a "reasonably" healthy dialogue over telecommunications network vulnerabilities in the US, but other sectors such as finance, electricity and transport needed greater assessment.
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