A top FBI official warned in a briefing before a congressional committee on Tuesday that "the electronic equivalent of a Pearl Harbour or an Oklahoma City" is on tap if the government fails to take every precaution, including collecting intelligence on attacks that might be in the planning stages.
Although such a catastrophe has yet to occur, "the statistics and our current cases demonstrate our dangerous vulnerabilities to cyber attacks," said Michael Vatis, deputy assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and chief of the bureau's new National Infrastructure Protection Center, which tracks Internet security issues.
Vatis, speaking before Congress' Joint Economic Committee, ran down a laundry list of recent hacking incidents, from breaches in Department of Defence systems to a hack that disabled telecommunications systems at a regional Massachusetts airport.
In the airport incident, a teen-age hacker cut off access to the airport's control tower, preventing runway lights from being turned on, Vatis told the committee.
"This case is a wake-up call for those who would argue that hacking is simply harmless fun," he said.