This past September, six of the country's largest banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, all became victims of a massive cyber attack that left customers frustrated for hours. According to The New York Times, an Islamist hacker group known as Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters took responsibility for the attacks, while there are those who believe the hackers were acting on the behalf of the Iranian government.
As tensions intensify between Iran and the U.S., many believe that Iran's desire to engage in cyber warfare is one of the biggest threats facing America today. This, in turn, makes expanding the nation's cyber security workforce more important than ever.
A Preview of Possible Cyber Attacks
While the Iranian government and terrorist groups played no role in the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, the superstorm did serve as an example of what could happen if a major U.S. city was the target of a cyber attack. As Sandy approached the U.S. East Coast, cities went dark and ATMs went offline - both of which are possible with a few clicks of a mouse, Reuters reports.
In fact, the scenario Reuters describes could happen sooner than people may think, as Leon Panetta, the U.S. secretary of defense, said "cyber Pearl Harbor" could take place in America soon.
"Over the past three years, the Iranian regime has invested heavily in both defensive and offensive capabilities in cyberspace," said Ilan Berman, the American Foreign Policy Council's vice president, as quoted by Reuters. "Equally significant, its leaders now increasingly appear to view cyber warfare as a potential avenue of action against the United States."
More Cyber Security Professionals Needed
Just as the U.S. was not prepared for the attack on Pearl Harbor, it appears that it is also ill equipped to respond to cyber Pearl Harbor.
"We don’t have all the capacity and the right sets of skills that we need to do all that’s required," Army Major General John Davis, senior military adviser for cyber to the U.S. Defense Department's under secretary of defense, told FCW. "In the department we are still struggling to fully define and empower the cyber workforce."
However, efforts are underway to beef up the nation's cyber security talent pool, as Reuters reports, the National Security Agency has already chosen four American colleges that would serve as Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations. At these institutions - Dakota State University, Northeastern University, the University of Tulsa and the Naval Postgraduate School - students can pursue bachelor's and master's degrees while receiving training that will prepare them for roles within the Pentagon's cyber units.