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Cyber ShockWave shows US is ill-prepared for cyber attack

Warwick Ashford

A simulated large-scale cyber attack has revealed the US is ill-prepared to deal with such a threat.

The Cyber ShockWave simulation was aimed at highlighting the immediate, real dangers of cyber-terrorism, said the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), which organised the event in Washington.

The exercise was developed by former CIA director general Michael Hayden and the BPC's National Security Preparedness Group.

A group of former senior administration and national security officials playing the roles of Cabinet members were faced with a crippled mobile phone network and electricity grid.

They were tasked with advising the president and mounting a real-time response to the attack as intelligence was received and to discuss lessons learned after the event.

The panel agreed that cyber-terrorism is a national security issue that needs to be addressed quickly in a bipartisan manner, said Eileen McMenamin, vice-president of communications at the BPC.

The exercise highlighted in particular some legal and communication issues that hampered the group's ability to function, she said.

"There is no question in my mind that this is a predictable surprise and we need to get our act together," said Stephen Friedman, former director of the National Economic Council, who played the role of secretary of treasury.

"Cyber-terrorism ought to be treated as a threat of sufficient seriousness that we give it the priority attention we have given weapons of mass destruction," said Michael Chertoff, former secretary of homeland security, who played the role of national security advisor.

Cyber ShockWave demonstrated the tremendous challenges the government has in dealing with potential cyber attacks, said Jason Grumet, founder and president of the BPC.

"Our goal was to identify real policy and preparedness issues that need to be addressed in order to combat an attack of this magnitude that escalates rapidly and is of unknown origin," he said.


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