Just three weeks after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told an audience at the Sea, Air and Space Museum that the U.S. is on the brink of a “cyber Pearl Harbor,” the government has decided it needs to beef up the ranks of its digital defenses. It’s assembling a league of extraordinary computer geeks for what will be known as the “Cyber Reserve.”
What drove Panetta to summon one of the most notorious acts of war on American soil is the persistence of Iranian hackers, who have waged repeated cyber attacks on American financial institutions and who recently dropped a nasty virus on Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer. Computer savvy terrorists could burrow their way into systems that control vital U.S. infrastructure and do something crazy like derail a passenger trail or shut down a power plant. “These attacks mark a significant escalation of the cyber threat,” Panetta said.
And so, 10 years after its inception, the Department of Homeland Security has decided that it needs to find a better way to stay on top of national security than farming out computer work to contractors.