“We are concerned by these intrusions, and we are trying to make sure they don’t lead to something much bigger, as they did in the Saudi case,” said one senior American official. He was referring to the aggressive attack last summer that affected 30,000 computers at Saudi Aramco, one of the world’s largest oil producers. After lengthy investigations, American officials concluded that Iran had been behind the Saudi Aramco attack.Another official said that in the new wave of attacks, “most everything we have seen is coming from the Middle East,” but he did not say whether Iran, or another country, appeared to be the source.
Thus far, most cyberattacks against the US have focused more on gathering information than inflicting serious damage. But this incident and others like it have federal officials concerned that cyber war may increasingly involve sabotage.The US and Israel damaged Iran’s nuclear processing facilities with the Stuxnet computer virus in 2010. Now US companies are being attacked by similar methods faster than defenses can be built against them. Last week, the DHS couldn’t offer companies any advice other than to encourage “things most everyone should be doing on an everyday basis,” according to the managing director of one cyber security firm.Leon Panetta’s warning of a “cyber 9/11” looks increasingly ominous now that the line between military and economic targets has been blurred.We hope that Washington is pulling out all the stops to stay several steps ahead in this battle. Warfare in the 21st century has the potential for kinds of destruction the world hasn’t yet seen.[Map image courtesy of Shutterstock]