DNI: Data destruction a major cyber threat

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McConnell's speech

Malicious data destruction is one of the greatest cyber threats to the country’s stability, and preventing such attacks should be a top priority, said Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence.

The risk of hackers targeting financial transactions, transportation systems or electric power facilities for data-obliteration or data-scrambling attacks should be viewed as a bigger threat than the risk of other countries launching Web site-defacing or denial-of-service attacks, McConnell said Nov. 17 at the 2008 Military Communications Conference and Symposium in San Diego.

“We have come to the simple realization that data destruction is so much more important and a greater threat,” McConnell said. Other types of cyber attacks are also serious, but data-damage and data-obliteration attacks are akin to “destroying the data that’s the soft underbelly of what makes the nation function,” he added.

He said a data-scrambling cyber attack on a bank could devastate the bank and have a cascading negative effect on the economy as a whole.

The country’s defense efforts should include protection of banking, finance and transportation systems from cyber adversaries, McConnell said. That would include operations at the network level to quickly identity attacks and prepare defenses against them.

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