When the then Secretary of Defense of the United States, Mr. Leon E. Panetta, coined the term “cyber Pearl Harbor” on October, 11th, 2012, during his address before Business Executives for National Security (BENS)’s audience, in New York, for sure, some of the attendants -a good number of them members of American boards of directors- started to ask themselves how cybersecure their firms were.
That evening, Mr. Panetta told his audience that events like those happened that same Summer against Saudi Arabia’s Aramco and/or Qatar’s RasGas were able to occur on American soil. This way he was revealing a new dimension of cyberattacks: one implying that interest in hacking went beyond traditional cyber-criminals to reach nation-states willing to include cyber as part of their foreign policy’s hidden agenda.
But going back, again, to the possibility of suffering a “cyber Pearl Harbor”, it is not only Mr. Panetta’s idea: just two years after the 2012’s BENS dinner, strategy think tank Pew Research Center, in its 2014 report “Digital life in 2025. Cyber Attacks Likely to Increase”, brought some insights on the likelihood of seeing a widespread-harming cyberattack within the decade to come.
Other two years have almost gone since Pew Research Center’s “prediction” and we [fortunately] have not yet seen such a large scale “cyber Katrina”. Nonetheless, more and more we keep realizing how vulnerable are those [computerized] things to which we trust our wellbeing (medical equipment being the more natural example). And, at the same time, we keep contemplating how some cyber threats -i.e., ransomware- do nothing but spreading even through national critical infrastructures.