Cyber attacks are top threat to US – intelligence chief

Washington (dpa) – Large scale cyber attacks that could cripple the US economy and infrastructure are the top threats to the United States, national intelligence director James Clapper said Tuesday.

Adressing the Senate Intelligence Committee, Clapper listed the threat of cyber attacks atop the transnational threat list, ahead of the large-scale terrorist attacks that usually dominate the list, or the financial crisis that was judged the top threat to the US in 2009.

”In some cases, the world is applying digital technologies faster than our ability to understand the security implications and mitigate potential risks,” Clapper said, noting that threats are more diverse, interconnected and viral than at any time in US history.

Clapper said both state and non-state actors are gaining and using cyber expertise that puts ”all sectors of our country at risk, from government and private networks to critical infrastructures.”

He told the committee that ”the seriousness and the diversity of the threats that this country faces in the cyber domain are increasing on a daily basis.”

Despite the growing threat, there was only a ”remote chance” in the next two years of a major cyber attack that ”would result in long-term, wide-scale disruption of services, such as a regional power outage,” Clapper said.