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Risk of Major Cyber Attack Worries Secretary

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

LOUISVILLE, Ky., March 1, 2012 – When Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta was asked following a speech here tonight what keeps him awake at night, he didn’t hesitate: a major cyber attack.

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Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta delivers remarks to about 1,200 people at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Ky., March 1, 2012. Panetta discussed the need for public service and how that has played in the successes and challenges confronting the Defense Department. DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“We are literally getting hundreds or thousands of attacks every day that try to exploit information in various [U.S.] agencies or departments,” Panetta told an audience at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville. There are plenty of targets beyond government, too, he added.

“There are, obviously, growing technology and growing expertise in the use of cyber warfare,” he said. “The danger is, I think, [that] the capabilities are available in cyber to virtually cripple this nation: to bring down the power grid, to impact on our governmental systems, to impact on Wall Street and our financial system and to literally paralyze this country.”

The country needs to defend against that kind of attack, but also develop the intelligence resources to understand when those possible attacks are coming, the secretary said.

“So the one thing I worry about is in knowing these things are possible and feeling that we haven’t taken all the necessary steps we need to protect this country,” he said.

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Leon E. Panetta

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