A cyberattack on the United States could be more devastating economically than a nuclear bomb and could cause massive deaths as well, Sen. Kit Bond, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, tells Newsmax.
“You can cause more economic harm with a cyberattack than a nuclear one,” Bond says. “It could crush our country and the world economy, which depends upon the United States as the world’s leading economy. If they take us down, they cripple everybody.”
Bond says well-publicized cyberattacks this month underscore the seriousness of the problem, which his committee has been studying. The recent attacks spread viruses to U.S. and South Korean personal computers, slowing them down and turning them into zombies connected to unknown sites.
The Missouri Republican says the recent attacks demonstrate how a cyberattack “could take down our entire infrastructure, which depends upon the use of computers and information technology.”
Bond notes that while the 3,000 deaths caused by the 9/11 attacks were tragic, “the relatively minor disruption of our economy caused billions of dollars of losses. Regrettably, the fictional movie ‘Live Free or Die Hard’ lays out the nightmare scenario. And if Hollywood can figure it out, you know darn well that if the terrorists didn’t know it then, they know it now.”
With such an attack, “you could potentially disrupt air traffic control and cause deaths, you could perhaps even open floodgates on hydro-dams that would put lives at risk,” Bond says. “If you took down a major Wall Street institution, you could cause a major disruption in the economy, amounting to trillions of dollars. We’ve seen how the financial mess has crashed our financial system. This would be far more devastating and happen more quickly.”
A cyberattack could also disrupt the food supply, electrical power, heat, and air conditioning.
Whether the recent attacks originated in North Korea, as some believe, is not known. That’s one of the problems when dealing with a cyberattack: Its origin is often impossible to trace.
“There are very significant, large governments which probably have the capacity to do great damage,” Bond notes. “In addition, we have terrorists who are very knowledgeable on computers, and if they developed some of these skills, they could perform attacks. We wouldn’t know where they came from.”
Bond adds, “If we can’t prevent the attack, picking up the pieces is going to be a very difficult thing. If you can’t track, if you don’t know who it is, it’s very difficult to retaliate against a sophisticated hacker who uses a series of cutouts to spread a virus.”
Bond opposes President Barack Obama’s plan to appoint a cyber czar to oversee the U.S. response.
“I’m not willing to live under a Russian-style czarist system,” Bond says. “He’s talking about a czar for everything. We’ve got a system that works. Now I’m not in favor necessarily of forming a new bureaucracy. But that responsibility ought to be in the hands of either a new agency or an existing agency, where the Senate has confirmation authority and the head of it reports to Congress to tell us what they’re doing.”
Whether located in the Defense Department or Homeland Security, the agency would be responsible for providing assistance to the private sector and could work with the intelligence community, the military, and the rest of the government to make sure that “we have the capacity to pre-empt strikes where we see a potential threat arising, before it destroys our system,” Bond says.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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