Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has expressed concern over the possibility of a major cyber-attack being launched again the United States.
"We are literally getting hundreds or thousands of attacks every day that try to exploit information in various [U.S.] agencies or departments. There are, obviously, growing technology and growing expertise in the use of cyberwarfare," Panetta recently told an audience at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville.
"The danger is, I think, [that] the capabilities are available in cyber to virtually cripple this nation: to bring down the power grid, to impact on our governmental systems, to impact on Wall Street and our financial system and to literally paralyze this country."
According to Panetta, the US will continue to defend itself against digital warfare, while working to develop "intelligence resource"s capable of predicting and tracking potential attacks.
"[Nevertheless], the one thing I worry about is in knowing these things are possible and feeling that we haven't taken all the necessary steps we need to protect this country," he added.
Panetta's warning was echoed earlier last week by FBI Director Robert Mueller, who stated that cyber-crime was fast becoming a major threat to the United States.
"We are losing data, we are losing money, we are losing ideas and we are losing innovation," Mueller explained. "Together we must find a way to stop the bleeding."
Mueller emphasized that while counter-terrorism remains the agency's top priority, the FBI has taken a number of steps to improve its response to various criminal activities in the digital realm.
"Terrorism does remain the FBI's top priority, but in the not too-distant-future we anticipate that the cyberthreat will pose the greatest threat to our country," he said. "Today, terrorists have not used the Internet to launch a full-scale cyberattack, but we cannot underestimate their intent."