A former CIA director says the Obama administration hasn’t done nearly enough to protect the nation from attacks to America’s information and critical infrastructure systems.
“The president has to put this first on his list because we are very vulnerable, and we will stay vulnerable until some key things get fixed. So far, I have not seen anywhere near enough commitment from the White House or any place else in getting this done,” said R. James Woolsey, who served as director of the Central Intelligence in the Clinton administration. Woolsey is now chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
The concern is rising again after reports last week that as many as 14 million current and former federal employees had their personal data compromised. That news follows numerous reports of alleged Chinese and Russian infiltration into various government networks.
“I think we’ve seen the beginning, but there will be more,” Woolsey said. “We have not done a half-way decent job as a government or a society in protecting our infrastructure that’s part of the Internet.”
Woolsey sees multiple reasons for why security has not been a higher priority.
“There’s a certain kind of flower children [mentality of], ‘Hey, what could possibly go wrong? We’re all going to talk to one another, and won’t that be great?'” Woolsey said.
“The government has not taken nearly enough care with security. They always put it at the bottom of the list and say, ‘We’ve got to have a check mark beside security. Somebody go hire a firewall.’ The ablest, best, smartest and shrewdest people have not been paying attention to security for the grid, and we’re starting to pay the price.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with R. James Woolsey:
While the most recent reports of private data being hacked is very troublesome, Woolsey said it’s the tip of the iceberg.
“It’s also the case that they can hack into the control systems, the so-called SCADA systems or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, SCADA systems of our infrastructure, whether it’s dams, railroad trains [and] turn things off and turn things to the reverse of what they’re supposed to do,” he said.
Woolsey said compromising one system could lead to a domino effect in many others.
“We’re an Internet of things now as people say, and they seem to think that’s a great idea, but one reason that it’s not a great idea is that all the things – computers, railroad, signals, etc. – talk to one another,” Woolsey said. “If you can get one going wrong and you can do it smartly, you can foul up everything it’s connected to. That could be a massive disaster, particularly with something like the electric grid.”
Woolsey said protecting the power grid in the U.S. is of the utmost importance. He said the U.S. has 18 “critical infrastructures” in the U.S., but 17 are reliant on electricity. If the power grid goes down, Woolsey said everything from food delivery to water purification to banking to prescription drugs is at risk.
He reiterates that the Obama administration must get serious about this now.
“The president needs to say this is the country’s No. 1 priority,” he said. “It’s not just cyber. An electromagnetic pulse could take down the grid and take down a lot of other systems. This needs to be a mobilization of the very best and brightest. We need to be able to break rules and move fast.”