The Associated Press
November 7, 2011
By LOLITA C. BALDOR
WASHINGTON (AP) — America’s critical computer networks are so vulnerable to attack that it should deter U.S. leaders from going to war with other nations, a former top U.S. cybersecurity official said Monday.
Richard Clarke, a top adviser to three presidents, joined a number of U.S. military and civilian experts in offering a dire assessment of America’s cybersecurity at a conference, saying the country simply can’t protect its critical networks.
Clarke said if he was advising the president he would warn against attacking other countries because so many of them — including China, North Korea, Iran and Russia — could retaliate by launching devastating cyberattacks that could destroy power grids, banking networks or transportation systems.
The U.S. military, he said, is entirely dependent on computer systems and could end up in a future conflict in which troops trot out onto a battlefield “and nothing works.”
Clarke said a good national security adviser would tell the president that the U.S. might be able to blow up a nuclear plant somewhere, or a terrorist training center somewhere, but a number of countries could strike back with a cyberattack and “the entire us economic system could be crashed in retaliation … because we can’t defend it today.”
“I really don’t know to what extent the weapon systems that have been developed over the last 10 years have been penetrated, to what extent the chips are compromised, to what extent the code is compromised,” Clarke said. “I can’t assure you that as you go to war with a cybersecurity-conscious, cybersecurity-capable enemy that any of our stuff is going to work.”