In what is the first major policy speech on cyber security, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called for the nation to bolster its cyber security efforts. He warned that without more focus on the issue, the country runs the risk of being vulnerable to attack from foreign criminals.
Among the possible targets are water and transportation control systems, as well as chemical and electricity plants, said Panetta said, speaking at a Business Executives for National Security meeting, according to Reuters.
Such attacks could cripple the country’s ability to supply water and power, for example, to the homes and businesses, Panetta said.
"We know of specific instances where intruders have successfully gained access to these control systems," Panetta said. "We also know that they are seeking to create advanced tools to attack these systems and cause panic, and destruction, and even the loss of life."
The Wall Street Journal reported that in recent months, U.S. banks came under attack by Iranian hackers. Foreign intruders disrupted Capital One Financial and BB&T corporations' websites, even after giving advance warning that they planned to do so.
Both Panetta’s speech and the series of attacks underscore the current need for more experts in cyber security. In an interview with the Washington Post, Tom Kellermann, vice president at Trend Micro and former member of President Barack Obama's cyber security commission, said the federal government should hire 10,000 cyber security experts.
The private sector, Kellermann predicted, might need to recruit 40,000 cyber security professionals.
Alec Ross, a State Department employee who focuses on innovation, said such demand is what makes cyber security a solid career. Ross told thePost, "If any college student asked me what career would most assume 30 years of steady, well-paying employment, I would respond, 'cyber security.’"