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Cyberspace attacks threaten
national security, CIA chief says

Computer security

June 25, 1996
Web posted at: 8:45 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States faces a growing threat of cyberspace attacks against its computer networks, encompassing everything from national security to banking records, CIA director John Deutch warned Congress Tuesday.

"We have evidence that a number of countries around the world are developing the doctrine, strategies and tools to conduct information attacks," Deutch said. He did not name the countries that pose the greatest threat.

Appearing before a Senate Governmental Affairs hearing, Deutch told the committee that intelligence and law enforcement agencies are "fully alerted" to the threat. Despite those efforts, "cyber-warfare" attacks will occur, he predicted.

"International terrorist groups clearly have the capability to attack the information infrastructure of the United States, even if they use relatively simple means," Deutch said.

He said the targets could include air traffic control, power plants, banks and international funds transfers. He also said that military forces are increasingly dependent on computers and high-tech communications. (213K AIFF or WAV sound)


At one point, Deutch was asked to compare the threat of cyberspace attacks to dangers posed by nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. "I would say it was very, very close to the top," he said.

Deutch said the CIA and the Defense Department plan to create a center on computer attacks at the National Security Agency.

He described the threat of such attacks as widespread and difficult to track but not "insurmountable." Terrorists and individual hackers are the most difficult to monitor, he said.

Peter Neumann of Computer Science Laboratory said "an electronic Pearl Harbor" will occur if the government and businesses do not prepare.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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