In the past few months, the United States has reached something of a turning point on the issue. In October, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” in which hackers might “derail passenger trains loaded with lethal chemicals. They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”
Rogers, the congressman leading the charge on CISPA, has been on the warpath too, saying last week that the United States was already embroiled in a cyberwar — one that it’s losing. The latest National Intelligence Estimate, the document that’s said to capture the sense of the entire U.S. intelligence community, confirms as much.
It all comes on the heels of several high-profile hacks disclosed late last month by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, among others. The intrusions were hard to attribute and even harder to eradicate; in the case of The Times, investigators found a thermostat and a printer still communicating with the hackers even after the intruders were thought to have been shut out.
With Washington united in fear of a digital attack on the homeland — and with the specter of an actual act of cyberespionage still lingering — the conditions may be better than ever now for Congress and the White House to agree on a landmark cybersecurity deal.