NSA veteran chief fears crippling cyber-attack on Western energy infrastructure

The West is losing the worldwide fight against jihadist terrorism and faces mounting risks of a systemic cyber-assault by extremely capable enemies, the former chief of the National Security Agency has warned.

“The greatest risk is a catastrophic attack on the energy infrastructure. We are not prepared for that,” said General Keith Alexander, who has led the US battle against cyber-threats for much of the last decade.

Gen Alexander said the “doomsday” scenario for the West is a hi-tech blitz on refineries, power stations, and the electric grid, perhaps accompanied by a paralysing blow to the payments nexus of the major banks.

“We need something like an integrated air-defence system for the whole energy sector,” he said, speaking at a private dinner held by IHS CERAWeek in Texas.

More insidiously, there is now a systematic effort by state-backed hacking teams to steal technology from Western companies. “This is the biggest wealth transfer in history,” he said.

Gen Alexander, who served as head of US Cyber Command as well as director of the electronic eavesdropping agency, listed five countries able to conduct cyber-warfare at the highest level: the US, UK, Israel, Russia, and surprisingly Iran.

China clearly has first-rate hackers, allegedly concentrated at a 2,000-strong cell of the People’s Liberation Army in Shanghai. The current NSA chief Michael Rogers testified late last year that China is capable of cyber-attacks that could cause “catastrophic failures” of the water system or the electricity grid.

Hank Paulson, the former US Treasury Secretary and author of a new book entitled “Dealing With China”, told the CERAWeek conference that Chinese hackers have been stealing intellectual property on a large scale.

“That’s the most quarrelsome issue because it plays to the common perception that China doesn’t play fair. US companies have got to do a better job of hardening their systems,” he said.

Full article: NSA veteran chief fears crippling cyber-attack on Western energy infrastructure (The Telegraph)

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