What risks do cyberattacks pose to America's energy infrastructure?
Over the past few months, Washington and the rest of the country have become increasingly aware of hackers attacking the Internet components of the country's economy. Last week, White House Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said cyberattacks are now among the top threats to national security.
One disconcerting threat would be a cyberattack on the infrastructure controlling pipelines moving oil and natural gas, or the electrical grid that powers the entire country. Experts say that a big cyberattack could cause blackouts and other disruptions stemming from the country's dependence on energy resources.
In a sign of how integral the energy industry is to the cybersecurity debate, President Obama invited several top energy executives to a meeting at the White House last week on the topic. According to Bloomberg News, the meeting included Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, American Electric Power CEO Nicholas Akins, and Marathon Oil CEO Clarence Cazalot Jr.
Despite the growing alarm about cyberattacks, Congress has not passed legislation that would strengthen the country's ability to prevent such attacks. Obama signed an executive order last month to strengthen the nation's cybersecurity, but Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said last week that the order was not enough and that Congress must act too.
What more does Washington need to do to ensure that the country is protected from cyberattacks? What are the pros and cons of recent legislation proposed in Congress to strengthen the nation's cybersecurity? How can Washington strike the right balance between guarding against cyberattacks and protecting the privacy of companies and individuals?
Will it take the occurrence of a major cyberattack to get Washington to act?