US identifies cyber attacks as biggest national threat

Forget school shootings, bomb threats, planes flying into buildings, tsunamis and hurricanes - cyber attacks are the biggest threat to the US.

National intelligence director James Clapper says attacks by politically and criminally motivated actors are the biggest threat to US national security.

“Cyber threats to US national and economic security are increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication and severity of impact,” he said in the latest annual threat assessment delivered to Congress (PDF).

He said that politically motivated hack attacks are a growing reality and that foreigners are managing to reach US infrastructure systems.

“These might be quickly exploited for disruption if an adversary’s intent became hostile,” he said, but he downplayed the idea the US is at a high risk of having its infrastructure crippled in a “cyber Armageddon” scenario, reported the Washington Times.

The USA has seen its fair share of cyber attacks in the past year, including a large attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, health insurance plan provider Anthem, and JP Morgan.

“The most pervasive threat to the US financial sector is from cyber criminals who were responsible for cyber intrusions in 2014 into JP Morgan, Anthem and other US companies," said Clapper.

“In future we will probably see cyber operations that change or manipulate electronic information to compromise its integrity instead of simply deleting or disrupting access to it,” he said.

However, Clapper believes hacking threats cannot be completely eradicated.

““In the end, the cyber threat cannot be completely eliminated. Rather, we must be vigilant in our efforts to detect, manage and defend against it,” said Clapper.”