U.S. Cyber Command Commander Gen. Keith Alexander said the capability exists today for destructive cyber attacks against critical infrastructures.
Speaking at an American Enterprise Institute seminar, Alexander said the cyber world is an increasingly important domain: 360 million people were on the Internet 12 years ago, compared to more than 2.3 billion today.
“What I think we really need to be concerned about is when these transition from disruptive to destructive attacks – and I think those are coming,” he said.
A destructive attack does not simply overload computers or networks – it destroys data or software, and systems must be replaced to return to the status quo. “We’ve got to consider that those are going to happen,” Alexander said. “Those are coming up, and we have to be ready for that.”
Cyber runs at the speed of light, Alexander said, and human reaction times are simply not fast enough to react.
“Maybe we could do this in real time and come up with a construct [in which] you and the American people know that we’re not looking at civil liberties and privacy, [but] we’re actually trying to figure out when the nation is under attack and what we need to do about it,” he said.