A top US intelligence official has emphasized that cyberattacks on American networks represent worse of a threat to the country than a ground attack by a ‘terrorist group. ’
The warning came on Tuesday in an annual report to the US Congress by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who also described North Korea’s nuclear program as a “serious threat” to the United States. “Attacks, which might involve cyber and financial weapons, can be deniable and unattributable, ” said Clapper in remarks before the Intelligence Committee of the US Senate. “Destruction can be invisible, latent and progressive, ” he added. Expressing concerns about the growing instrumental use of the Internet by nations and “terror groups, ” the top US official tasked with coordinating spying operations by various American intelligence agencies further announced that foreign intelligence and security agencies have “penetrated numerous computer networks” run by the government and private corporations in the United States.
In his report, Clapper specifically identified China and Russia as the two most “advanced cyber actors” against the US, noting, however, that they were unlikely to launch an attack.
While pointing to American technological advantage over other nations for many years, the top US espionage coordinator admitted that advances in information technology and trade practices have evened the playing field. “This is almost certainly allowing our adversaries to close the technological gap between our respective militaries, slowly neutralizing one of our key advantages in the international arena, ” Clapper said in reading his prepared report. The development comes as President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser Tom Donilon warned China on Monday against waging cyber attacks against the US, demanding a halt to what he described as unprecedented cyber intrusions by the Chinese. “Increasingly, US businesses are speaking out about their serious concerns about sophisticated, targeted theft of confidential business information and proprietary technologies through cyber intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale, ” said Donilon in a New York speech.
Meanwhile, Clapper insisted in his report to the US Senate that the possibility of a major cyber attack on the US that would lead to an extensive disruption such as a power outage is “remote. ”
He further underlined that most nations or groups lack the capacity to launch such an attack. The senior spymaster also stated that although classified US network systems have been targeted by cyber attacks, most of the intrusions into the networks have involved unclassified ones.