While many Americans worry about terrorists attacking transportation systems or national landmarks, experts say the more likely target is at their fingertips.
With more and more people, businesses, and government agencies conducting their business online, cyberspace has become especially tantalizing, and protecting it, increasingly urgent.
Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council which represents the interests of several hundred companies, puts it bluntly.
“The next major threat to our country probably won’t come by land, sea or air. It’s going to come from cyberspace, and we better be ready for it,” he said.
“It” includes attacks by so-called “cyber militias,” widely believed to be supported by governments in China and Russia, to the random bad actor intent on shutting down critical infrastructure, like power plants, electric grids, and bank ATM’s.
To fend off such attacks, the federal government is looking for more help. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is making her pitch to university students across the country. She recently spoke at MIT and UC Berkeley, hoping to lure those who can help protect public and private sectors.
“We need a strong, innovated group of people who are willing to take on the incredible challenge that the protection of cyber space demands,” Napolitano said.
Many believe the government’s recruiting effort comes in the midst of a national emergency. “We’re already under attack in the cyber world,” says retired Major Gen. Dale Meyerrose, a cyber expert with the Harris Group. “I’ve seen several studies that say American businesses lose a trillion dollars a year through cyber crime.”