Leon Panetta says he’s taken heat for something he said in 2012. The phrase? “Cyber Pearl Harbor.”
Maybe the former CIA director and Secretary of Defense could have chosen his words differently. “Pearl Harbor” after all, is a sacred phrase. But it turns out though, he might be right.
When Panetta used those words almost a decade ago, no one expected what he said would be so accurate about how vulnerable our systems were to hackers.
“Call it whatever you want. It’s a national security threat. Don’t try to fool yourself that somehow, just because you don’t like the words, the threat is not real,” Panetta says.
Sunday’s New York Times has a news analysis piece called “Are we waiting for everyone to get hacked.” It outlines some of the more prominent hacks in recent days.
Among them, a hack on Oldsmar’s water system in Pinellas County in February. The hackers managed to change the system’s sodium hydroxide setting. More commonly, the chemical known as lye. You see how bad this could have been. A plant operator caught the change and fixed it. Disaster averted.
60 Minutes did a piece of Ransomware. How hackers can take control of a business’s computers and hold its files for ransom. Think fuel distributors, meat producers, hospitals, entire towns. Said one FBI expert, every entity in this country can expect to be hacked and held hostage for ransom.
How does this happen? Hackers use programs that crawl and scan the internet. They look for vulnerable systems to hack. Apparently there are lots of vulnerable systems in this country.
So far, the hacks have been on entities. When does it come to individuals? In the 60 Minutes piece, an expert says it’s only a matter of time. When does a hacker take over my phone, my house, my car? What am I willing to pay to get my life back?
That’s a number I need to think about.