Obama: Cyber attack serious threat to economy, national security

Obama: Cyber attack serious threat to economy, national security

Summary: U.S. President Barack Obama is urging the Senate to pass the Cybersecurity Act of 2012. He believes legislation will help the U.S. fight "the cyber threat to our nation," which he calls "one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face."

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Update on August 2 - Senate blocks Cybersecurity Act

Obama: Cyber attacks serious threat to economy, national security

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday decided to write about hackers in an opinion editorial titled "Taking the Cyberattack Threat Seriously" which originally appeared on the official website for the White House and then subsequently published on the WSJ. This is huge.

You see, this isn't a defense expert talking about how the U.S. should hire more hackers, a cybersecurity advisor saying China has hacked every major U.S. company, or even the FBI saying the U.S. losing the hacker war. This is the president of the United States of America outlining his thoughts on the threat of a cyber attack against the world's most powerful country.

First Obama introduced the topic by discussing an experiment his administration ran to see the potential damage a cyber attack could inflict, without actually saying it was a test. Then he got more serious:

Fortunately, last month's scenario was just a simulation—an exercise to test how well federal, state and local governments and the private sector can work together in a crisis. But it was a sobering reminder that the cyber threat to our nation is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face.

So far, no one has managed to seriously damage or disrupt our critical infrastructure networks. But foreign governments, criminal syndicates and lone individuals are probing our financial, energy and public safety systems every day.

Obama went on to list a few worst-case scenarios:

It doesn't take much to imagine the consequences of a successful cyber attack. In a future conflict, an adversary unable to match our military supremacy on the battlefield might seek to exploit our computer vulnerabilities here at home. Taking down vital banking systems could trigger a financial crisis. The lack of clean water or functioning hospitals could spark a public health emergency. And as we've seen in past blackouts, the loss of electricity can bring businesses, cities and entire regions to a standstill.

This is the future we have to avoid. That's why my administration has made cybersecurity a priority, including proposing legislation to strengthen our nation's digital defenses. It's why Congress must pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation.

You might be wondering what legislation he's talking about. Obama is calling on Congress to pass a revised cyber security bill, introduced in the Senate on Thursday, to protect critical computing infrastructure from hackers. Expect to hear about it increasingly in the coming weeks.

The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (PDF), first introduced in February 2012, set cyber security standards for critical infrastructure, and gave legal immunity to companies who would meet them. The new law would require the Department of Homeland Security to assess risks and vulnerabilities of computer systems running at critical infrastructure sites.

Security experts worry private companies won't make upgrades to protect their computer networks without enforceable regulations, but business lobbyists argued regulations would harm many firms. As such, the Thursday bill includes amendments that narrow the definition of what information about cyber threats can be shared between companies and the government. It also says companies will share cybersecurity information mainly with civilian agencies, as opposed to with military groups.

Obama concluded:

Today we can see the cyber threat to the networks upon which so much of our modern American lives depend. We have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to take action now and stay a step ahead of our adversaries. For the sake of our national and economic security, I urge the Senate to pass the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 and Congress to send me comprehensive legislation so I can sign it into law.

It's time to strengthen our defenses against this growing danger.

Look out for what my colleague David Gerwitz will have to say come Monday as he's planning to discuss this topic in further depth. In the meantime, I encourage you read the full Op-ed by President Obama.

Update on July 23 - How cybersecurity is like Star Trek's transporter

Update on August 2 - Senate blocks Cybersecurity Act

See also:

Topics: Security, Government, Government US, Tech Industry

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

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25 comments
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  • "legislation" to defeat one of the most serious threats to the USA

    Next save billions; retire the military, expand the legislator;-)

    Do people still listen to politicians anymore? It's embarrassing.
    Richard Flude
  • You want to reduce these threats? Ban Windows.

    Iran had their nuclear centrifuges attacked, running Windows. Basically all botnets are made up of Windows.
    Trict
    • Well....

      It's not like 90%+ computer systems run some version of windows, and therefore are the most viable platform to target or anything....Or that banning windows would seriously harm most markets and would simply replace windows with another target for hacking...
      Alleycat5
      • well well well

        "It's not like 90%+ computer systems run some version of windows, and therefore are the most viable platform to target or anything"

        It is, but it's also a full fallacy to state with certainty that the flawed security designs of windows are irrelevant, dismissing prior evidence to the contrary.

        The Windows kernel design is insecure, which is why it's so vulnerable to attacks compared to others. If we take a sample accounting for error such as windows vs linux servers, there are far more successful attacks against windows servers.

        The harming-markets argument is the only valid part.
        Trict
        • Clueless

          Sorry, you're clueless. As Charlie Miller, who actually understands security, pointed out a couple of years ago, on a technical level, common Linux distributions and OS X are probably easier to hack than Windows:

          http://www.oneitsecurity.it/01/03/2010/interview-with-charlie-miller-pwn2own/

          Linux web server botnets, which are used to distribute malware to end users, are actually some of the most dangerous botnets around:

          http://blog.unmaskparasites.com/2009/09/11/dynamic-dns-and-botnet-of-zombie-web-servers/

          In the botnet discussed in the above link, every zombie web server found was running Linux.

          A lot of the thefts of passwords and so on from websites undoubtedly also involve compromised Linux web servers. After all, as the Linux advocates love to point out, Linux dominates the web server market.
          WilErz
          • Shills are going to shill

            Follow the money. This has already been mentioned.
            Trict
  • Obmam think the real threat is "Whitey"

    Because "Whitey" is a member of the Infidels, a lower class of humans compared to te truly righteous Muslims.If Obama thought he could pull it off oday he'd remodel the US to be ore like his home country, of Kenya...
    Jumpin Jack Flash
    • Jumpin Jack Flash go stick your head in a Toilet

      you worthless piece of S***.
      Over and Out
      • Nice attitude

        You Racist! Obama is a known Racist with ties to known terrorists. Ever hear of his Neighbor, the founder of Weather Underground? Or is your head planted so firmly up your backside you can't see that?
        Jumpin Jack Flash
        • Look in the mirror when you call someone a racist.....

          your head is up your own backside you worthless piece of S***.

          And I stand behind this message
          Over and Out
          • No I'm looking at a Racist (You)

            When you call someone, and I quote "you worthless piece of S***" because they are not a Muslim, you are indeed a racist! Obama is a Racist, and has been for a very long time. Read his many published comments about White people. Educate yourself, or shut your pie-hole! Jeremiah Right is a Racist, on the highest degree! This guy spews hate, of whites, at every turn. Claiming Obama is like Jesus (a Poo black man), living in an unfair world, and being oppressed by whitey
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ-3VG3ush0
            Listen to that Racist Piece of Crap, and you'll learn that Racism is alive and well in America. I'm sick of a black man, Arab, Mexican, etc saying inflammatory, and it being passed over, but if a White person says something less inflammatory, suddenly they're a Racist? How can Obama stand at a Podium and proclaim "that WHITE cop acted stupidly" when his Racist friend was being belligerent to the cop! If I was being belligerent to any cop, would Obama say that cop was acting stupidly, if he/she arrested me? No, because I'm not a Racist! Sure there are white racists, but there are more non-White Racists. People just refuse to point that part out! Just a little FYI. Obama is Proud to be a Muslim! Don't believe me, listen to Barraka Obama him,self!
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYWeK4w3PKk
            I'm neither a wortheless Piece of Sh*t, nor a Racist for pointing out a fact!
            Jumpin Jack Flash
          • Take your racist points of views elsewhere as they have no place in a

            discussion form on possible cyber attacks.

            This form isn't interested in your off topic points of view. For what ever reasons your so obsessed with so much racial hatred I feel sorry for you. If I were in your position I'd seek psychiatric help immediately as you are totally out of control.

            If your not sure where to find help there is the Yellow pages or you can use Google or Bing. I'd use the term "Mind Disorder" that should narrow down your search considerably.

            Please be sure to post your results as were all concerned for your well being.
            Over and Out
      • @SoYouSaid, remember what you said

        ""Show a little more class ............ [Jumpin Jack Flash] isn't worth that
        type of language, is he? take the higher road.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • He doesn't want the damn truth exposed!

          Listen to Obama himself. I've never seen anyone pander to Religious Zealots, that seek to destroy the way of life. Watch this, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYWeK4w3PKk It speaks volumes of Mr. Obama, son of Kenya!
          Jumpin Jack Flash
    • Thats OK. I remember when I had my first beer.

      Stupid drunk talk.
      Cayble
  • Bad advice

    Cybersercurity efforts during the previous administration was a joke and served mostly to help well-connected contractors jump in on the overall "security" money geyser with lousy projects and idiot outsourcing, especially at the DHS and NSA. Things have much improved since, but there is still a dismaying amount of cluelessness in military and government agencies, who provide advice to the President and Congress, about how best to combat matters at the long term infrastructural level.
    JustCallMeBC
  • YES!!

    Obama IS a serious threat to economy, national security.
    wackoae
  • Windows

    Windows, Windows, Windows. We all know that is the problem.
    gertruded
    • Because

      Linux and OS X are the pinnacles of security? The only reason they don't have hugely publicized hacking problems is because their market share is so miniscule they aren't worth target. OS X recently has had more than one widely publicized virus *because* they actually have a decent market share now.
      Alleycat5
      • And your evidence is where?

        Some have done studies which refute your argument. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/10/22/linux_v_windows_security/

        And I'd like to confirm one person that disagrees with those studies which is unaffiliated with MS. I've yet to see that.
        Trict