US "unprepared" for mass cyber-attack

Posted by Aharon Etengoff

A former director of the National Security Agency (NSA) has warned that the US is utterly "unprepared" for a mass cyber-attack.

"[Yes], it could happen tomorrow," John Michael "Mike" McConnell told a recent forum in a statement quoted by the Atlantic.

"Cybersecurity is the wolf at the door. [Sure], we can set all the rules we want, but the Internet is a world wide thing...The greater challenge is defending ones and zeros."

According to McConnell, a large-scale cyber-offensive has the potential to impact the global economy on an "order of magnitude surpassing" the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Former (Bush) Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend expressed similar sentiments, arguing that the US desperately needs to overhaul its cyber defense infrastructure - which currently lacks the organizational ability and authority to effectively prevent or respond to digital attacks.

"The real capability in this government is in the National Security Agency...[But] the NSA is legally forbidden from spying on Americans. 



"[Still], those laws haven't kept apace with technology and the threats, [so] the bad guys have gotten an edge because the laws haven't kept up."

As such, Townsend believes the NSA should be granted increased authority to operate domestically.

Nevertheless, Townsend conceded that there was a long history of "well founded suspicion" about expanding government authority "in the name of national security."