Defense Sec. Panetta: U.S. Could Face 'Cyber-Pearl Harbor'

Defense Sec. Panetta: U.S. Could Face 'Cyber-Pearl Harbor'

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is warning that America could face cyber attacks capable of derailing passenger trains and allowing attackers to contaminate large water systems.

Speaking to the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York on Oct. 11, Panetta said individuals in adversarial nations like China, Russia, and Iran,  could “use cyber tools to gain control of critical switches.” He said such attackers “could derail passenger trains, or even more dangerous, they could derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could also contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”

Critics allege that Panetta is trying to scare Republicans into supporting the Cyber-security bill Sen. John McCain and others blocked in August. The opposition to that bill arose from concerns that passage of the bill would mean more burdensome and costly new regulations for American businesses. 

Panetta is countering critics by warning that the U.S. could face a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” if something isn’t done.