Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is warning that a “increasing cascade" of cyber-terrorism attacks and a renewed flu pandemic could slam government institutions this fall, leaving resources and manpower severely stretched.
Speaking at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, an annual gathering of federal judges and court officials from the Western U.S., Napolitano said that cyber crime and the H1N1 virus were among her biggest fears, according to The Herald of Monterey County, California.
Attacks on computer systems are on the rise, she said, posing a threat to institutions such as the courts that constantly deal with confidential files.
"In my few months as the secretary of Homeland Security, I've seen an increasing cascade of attacks on systems in the United States. I've seen attacks into our own department," she said, according to The Herald.
The United States and other governments thus far do not have the “institutional capacity to detect these things, repair them and keep on operating in this new cyber world," she said.
But it’s the flu that could become the most immediate threat. Napolitano raised the possibility of widespread absenteeism that affects government, businesses and schools.
"We all need to be thinking through, how do we keep things going, how do we keep business happening with absentee rates that could be 10, 20 or 30 percent — maybe even 40 percent — at the height of the return of a flu pandemic? How will you operate the courts?"
Though it’s unlikely anything will occur on the scale of the 1918 flu pandemic, the H1N1 virus could force school and business closures across the country. The virus is circulating through the Southern Hemisphere, she said, and is expected to make a strong comeback in the U.S. by early fall.
"We don't have a lot of time," she said, according to The Herald. "I would urge you to lean forward and navigate this issue ahead of time so that decisions are not being made in the height of a pandemic."
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