Last night CBS’ 60 Minutes aired a disturbing report on how the next big attack on America may come not via bombs or planes flying into buildings but via the internet, where skilled hackers can disrupt the nation’s energy grid, banking system, air traffic controls, etc. Steve Kroft reported that we are, more than any other country, vulnerable to such attacks because we’ve moved so much of our government and industry onto the internet. The whole piece was downright scary, but sort of buried inside of it was the revelation that in 2007 a group of hackers basically infiltrated all of the U.S. government’s computers and downloaded everything, financial records, military secrets, EVERYTHING, and the Bush administration, which loves to tout how they “kept the country safe” during their reign, kept it all under wraps to spare themselves the embarrassment. And perhaps worst of all, we still have no idea who did it.
Kroft spoke to Jim Lewis, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which advises Obama on issues relating to cyber-security:
“In 2007 we probably had our electronic Pearl Harbor. It was an espionage Pearl Harbor,” Lewis said. “Some unknown foreign power, and honestly, we don’t know who it is, broke into the Department of Defense, to the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, probably the Department of Energy, probably NASA. They broke into all of the high tech agencies, all of the military agencies, and downloaded terabytes of information.”
How much is a terabyte?
“The Library of Congress, which has millions of volumes, is about 12 terabytes. So, we probably lost the equivalent of a Library of Congress worth of government information in 2007,” Lewis explained.
“All stolen by foreign countries?” Kroft asked.
“Yeah. This was a serious attack. And that’s really what made people wake up and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get a grip on this,’” Lewis said.
So why has the public never learned of this? Because the Bush White House kept the lid on it, naturally:
“You know, I’ve been trying to figure out why that is. And some of it is the previous administration didn’t want to admit that they had been rolled in 2007. There’s a disincentive to tell people, ‘Hey, things are going badly.’ But it doesn’t seem to be sinking in. And some of us call it ‘the death of a thousand cuts.’ Every day a little bit more of our intellectual property, our innovative skills, our military technology is stolen by somebody. And it’s like little drops. Eventually we’ll drown. But every day we don’t notice,” Lewis said.
Here’s the whole chilling report…