Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on Tuesday said a large-scale cyberattack against U.S. infrastructure is "the most serious threat in the 21st century."
Panetta emphasized the need for improved cyberdefense and public education about cyberattack risks and said a large-scale attack could "devastate our critical infrastructure and paralyze our nation." He compared the impact of a cyberattack to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
"We have to take steps to better defend ourselves against this threat," Panetta said. "The American people need to understand that that this is not about hacking and identity theft, it has the potential for a major attack on the United States."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department's Richard Downing warned that international cybercriminals are becoming more involved with organized crime, which makes their activities harder to stop. Downing also said extradition difficulties and evidence gathering are obstacles to stopping cybercriminals, particularly in less technically-advanced countries.
In addition, Georgetown University's Catherine Lotrionte estimated that losses from international intellectual property theft average about $300 billion a year.
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