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US cyber security 'under threat'

By Sarah Smith, Channel 4 News

Updated on 02 February 2010

Malicious cyber activity is occurring on an unprecedented scale with extraordinary sophistication." That is what America's top intelligence official, Dennis Blair has told the US congress.

Cyber security (Credit: Getty)

It was a pretty stark warning about the risks that come with government, business and personal reliance on the internet.

The US could suffer a "cyber Pearl Harbour" he said as he described the potentially devastating consequences of a co-ordinated attack on America's technological infrastructure.

Every year the intelligence chief comes in front of the Senate intelligence committee to give an assessment of the threats facing America.

This year the cyber threat was what he chose to mention first, a sign of how seriously the US takes it.

Blair said an increasingly sophisticated group of enemies has "severely threatened" the country's information systems and he said the recent cyber attacks against Google should be treated as a "wake up call".

An attack could cripple the US economy and it is already costing money to try to defend against such a strike.

But Blair did not present a plan to secure the country's information systems. In fact he said that neither the US government nor the private sector can fully protect the American cyber infrastructure.

He said: "Sensitive information is stolen daily from both government and private sector networks, undermining confidence in our information systems, and in the very information these systems were intended to convey."
 
He also warned of the risks of further financial instability and of course from terrorism.

He added: "Al-Qaida will continue to try to attack the United States until Osama bin Laden and his number two Ayman al-Zawahri are dead."

And for the first time the spy chief had to admit that home grown extremists were plotting against America, like the Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hassan, rather than only facing a threat form militants abroad.

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