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
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