The Washington Post

Janet Napolitano: Hackers have ‘come close’ to major cyberattack

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spends a considerable amount of time dealing with cybersecurity threats, including potential attacks on the nation’s infrastructure. But don’t ask her to detail the nation’s biggest cyber enemies.

“Oh, I don’t rank them, this isn’t basketball or something,” Napolitano said Thursday, earning her a laugh at the start of a Washington Post Live event on cybersecurity. “Threats are threats.”

Hackers have “come close”several times to shutting down elements of the nation’s infrastructure, she said, noting that Wall Street firms and transportation systems are frequent cyberattack targets.

“I think we all have to be concerned about a network intrusion that shuts down part of the nation’s infrastructure in such a fashion that it results in a loss of life,” she said.

Asked how many cyberattacks might have occurred over the course of her 45-minute Q&A session, Napolitano responded, “Thousands.”

The Department of Homeland Security is in the process of hiring about 1,000 cybersecurity specialists to combat the fast-evolving issue — and Napolitano said she would have “every cyber geek in the United States” working for her if she could.

The 1,000 hires may sound impressive, but it pales in comparison to the 3,000 specialists that the National Security Agency plans to hire to combat the issue by the end of fiscal 2012 — and the thousands more fighting cybercrime at an alphabet soup of other agencies.

But in the end, Napolitano said she believes that Homeland Security needs to serve as the nation’s “incident response center” in the event of a major attack.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden also spoke at the conference and described the ins and outs of cyber espionage efforts and some cyber attacks. Watch his comments below:

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Further reading:

NSA is looking for a few good hackers

For more, visit PostPolitics and The Fed Page.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
How to make Sean Brock's 'Heritage' cornbread
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
The signature dish of Charleston, S.C.
Play Videos
Why seasonal allergies make you miserable
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
What you need to know about filming the police
Play Videos
The Post taste tests Pizza Hut's new hot dog pizza
5 tips for using your thermostat
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
The signature drink of New Orleans