US Army's Internet War Chief Says Online Attacks Could Cause Nuke-Like Damage

When we think "cyber attacks", we usually think of something along the lines of LulzSec or Russian botnets — mostly disruptive, and only destructive in the abstract. But General Keith Alexander, head of US Cyber Command, says IRL mayhem's coming.

Speaking before a panel of eager-eared defence bros, General Alexander spelled out the future of digital assaults: they're going to be physical assaults, exploiting the bridge between the internet and the machinery that depends on it. Alexander cited the accidental explosion of a hydroelectric generator in Russia — triggered by a remote mis-click — that wiped out nearly the entire dam and killed 75 people. Such an attack, made deliberately, is what we should expect — and its destructive capability is outmatched only by weapons of mass destruction, the Washington Times relays.

The "destructive element," as Gen Alexander calls it in typically mitigated Pentagon speak, is "coming" — "It's a question of time." We've already seen it happen — think Stuxnet. And despite the Pentagon claiming it's ready to go on the offensive, US internet defence is confused and in flux. Most of the military doesn't even understand the threat, let alone what to do about it. Who's the enemy? How are they attacking? Where are they attacking from? What the hell does "cyber" mean? Whose responsibility is it to care?

Lots of questions — but at least we know what Cyber Command thinks we should dread. And hey, that's always swell. [Washington Times]

File photo of Keith Alexander: Mark Wilson/Getty Photo of Indian Point nuclear power plant: Mario Tama/Getty

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