U.S. Experts: Greatest threat is massive cyberattack

Former CIA Directors Gen. David Petraeus and Leon Panetta both warn that the U.S. faces a huge threat from a major cyberattack, one that could knock out the electric grid and cripple financial networks.

An Axios report this weekend quotes Petraeus saying, “What worries me most is a cyber equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction falling into the hands of extremists who would, needless to say, be very difficult to deter, given their willingness to blow themselves up on the battlefield to take us with them.”

Other current and former intelligence and homeland security officials concur, including DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Michael Chertoff, Lisa Monaco and Frances Townsend.

Russia is not the only foreign power to have demonstrated the capability and interest in waging a cyberattack on the U.S.—China, North Korea and potentially even non-state actors can wreak havoc too. But Russia all eyes are on Russia due to recent provocations aimed at energy companies and news reports that they’ve successfully penetrated critical U.S. electricity infrastructure.

A well-executed cyberattack could knock out the electrical grid and shut off power to a huge swath of the country, or compromise vital government or financial data and leave us unsure what is real. The sheer number of internet-connected devices, from cars to pacemakers, means the risks are growing by the day.

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