The 3 a.m. call Panetta fears the most
March 2nd, 2012
02:21 PM ET

The 3 a.m. call Panetta fears the most

From CNN Washington bureau intern Hyun Soo Suh

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has a lot of problems looming over him these days.

A war in Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear aspirations, the "meat ax" of possible additional $500 billion in cuts to his budget, to name a few.  Panetta does not seem like a man who would sleep easily at night.  But it's not even that daunting list that keeps him up at night, he said this week.

"The one thing that I worry about the most right now is knowing that [a cyberattack] is possible, and feeling that we have not taken the necessary steps to protect this country from that possibility," Panetta said at the University of Louisiana Thursday March 1st."I think the capabilities are available in cyber [warfare] to virtually cripple this nation. To bring down our power grid system. To impact our governmental systems. To impact on Wall Street, our financial systems. And literally … paralyze this country," Panetta cautioned.

Panetta is not alone in his bedtime fears.

The dangers of a cyberattack and the vulnerability of the United States to such an attack has been a hot topic in Washington the last few months surrounding the discussion of the cybersecurity legislation in Congress.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers warned that the United States will soon suffer a deadly cyberattack if it doesn't act now to prevent it.

"Given classified briefings that we've had, discussions with all of you and your counterparts . . . that a cyberattack is on its way. We will suffer a catastrophic cyberattack," Rogers said at a recent hearing

"The cyberthreat will equal or surpass the threat from counterterrorism in the foreseeable future," said FBI Director Robert Mueller in his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in January.

Panetta urged the importance of developing cyber capabilities to meet these emerging threats, "I think it's very important for us to understand that we not only have to defend against [cyberattacks], but we have to develop the intelligence, resources to understand when those possibilities are coming and to develop greater capabilities in the cyber arena."

The question of how Panetta will accomplish this with the looming defense budget cuts is just another item to add to his list of sleep-depriving issues.

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Filed under: Cybersecurity • Military • Panetta
soundoff (50 Responses)
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  12. Not so fast...

    I am kinds of thinking that with most DoD procurements in utter disarray (F35/F22/Aircraft Carriers) that perhaps we onlght to look elsewhere to find our cyber protection....

    March 12, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Reply
  13. Bill

    Leon, This is Joe. Joe Biden. Where am I?

    March 12, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Reply
    • Lance

      hahaha! Nice one! About peed my pants.

      March 12, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  14. student

    Panetta spoke at the University of Louisville, not Louisiana.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Reply
  15. Lord Haw-Haw

    Ah, yes......the ominous 3am phone call.

    Just like in The Sopranos.

    March 4, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Reply


    March 4, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Reply
    • Nick

      Do you have any clue how dumb you sound? Panetta should visit a tourist landmark and that experience alone will inspire him to shut down the Pentagon? Read some books, man, you missed out on an education.

      March 12, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Reply
  17. michaelfury

    I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid... you're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.

    March 4, 2012 at 9:49 am | Reply
  18. will laing

    america still has friends australia has fought in every war with you and always will be right there with you as will nato.Just a thought i know it cant happen but what would the world look like if every country could drop there milatry budgets and spend it on education and health from your alley.

    March 3, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Reply
  19. ConfucianSaying

    What Panetta and the military and the intel community need to do is facilitate a joint panel between public and private sectors in order to effectively create a framework that could first and foremost adequately protect critical infrastructure. Agreement on securing the "trunk" lines will depend on whether ISP such as Verizon and Cisco could come to some sort of agreement with government over regulation, but that would be difficult given it could potentially impact privacy.

    March 3, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Reply
  20. I hate winter

    Why is it that the U.S. sits on our hand's and hope nothing happen's! W.W.II, Korean(police action)9-11-2001 comes to mind,we need to plan for thing's of this nature! Nobody like's this country and it's people! The only reason we have the friend's we have is the money we give them!

    March 3, 2012 at 10:45 am | Reply
    • comeonman

      maybe nobody likes this country or its ppl because we have tards like you that are always calling for the US military to attack other nations

      March 4, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Reply
      • I hate winter

        Either you didn't read what I wrote or your brain dead! I never said anything about the U.S. bombing or going to war with anyone,dipsh_t! We need to prepare for thing's,that doesn't mean killing anyone dipsh_t!

        March 4, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  21. Ones & Zeros

    From a thumb drive connected to a military laptop in the Middle East a worm was sent into the military and government networks and servers. A smart worm that could go dormant, mutate and activate on it's own... Compromising security.

    In short there is no such thing as cyber security.... The US military and US agencies should assume that every system and network is compromised and act accordingly... Back to the old tried and proven ways for communications and secure file sharing.

    If it is connected, encrypted and "secure" it cannot ever be immune, can be accessed and compromised.

    March 3, 2012 at 10:24 am | Reply
  22. rmsbl4

    Don't accept any 3am calls. problem solved.

    March 3, 2012 at 1:53 am | Reply
  23. imreloadin

    So the call that is most dreaded is about a cyber attack. Let me guess the solution to this is to hand over total control of the internet to the government isn't it?

    March 3, 2012 at 12:32 am | Reply
  24. Jr10

    Stop trying to encourage everything to be computerized for the convenience of money grubber

    March 2, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Reply
  25. rightospeak

    He needs to start making decisions or suggest them to Obama to stop spending the money we do not have on endless wars; bring all the troops home. If the decisions are too complicated for him , he needs to resign. Our country is in a crisis and these political appointees are playing games. Put them on trial for treason and see how fast things will change.

    March 2, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Reply
  26. RCDC

    Solution: 1. Bring home the troops fast 2. the country should maximize its investment on green energy.( like on algae fuel , cheap peoples algae fuel powered car and cheap electric cars)

    March 2, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Reply
  27. Common

    America prevails at everything and anything. We are born to achieve things others can't even anticipate. Why? Because we are encouraged to differ in opinions when we disagree. Americans are always challenging the status-quo. Same reason we are falling behind in math and science in World Rankings. Eventually other countries will fight back against mandatory education. Americans are taught to learn about what we desire to learn about, and how many people are interested in math equations and scientific hypothesis? Not very many.

    March 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Reply
    • comeonman

      ur a dumbass

      March 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  28. Voice of Reason

    Lets do what China does and have government sponsored hacking schools and unleash them on our enemies

    March 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Reply
    • Voice of Reason

      And unlike China, we have the will, the money AND the Innovation to do it

      March 2, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Reply
    • John Galt

      Definition of irony...on a story related to cyberattacks, we get a spammer from the third world posting a link to a malware infested site.

      March 3, 2012 at 12:54 am | Reply
  29. What Is

    As mentioned before, the historical precedent is there. The breaking of German and Japanese codes in WWII had a termendous impact on the outcome.

    Simply a matter of most any country gathering together several hundred of their smartest computer people and cryptrologists and giving them unlimited resources, the cost of which isn't even all that much money.

    20 people on military satellites. 20 people on civilian satellites. 20 people on the banks. 20 people on the drones. 20 people on communications. 20 people on the utilities. 20 people on the nuclear power plants. 20 people on the CIA. 20 people on the NSA. Etc. And weekly coordination meetings between the groups.

    This could be a great equalizer among nations.

    March 2, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Reply

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