When former federal officials gathered in February to test their skill in containing a simulated cyberattack on the nation, the “damage” was catastrophic, says the Dallas Morning News. Vast networks that transmit millions of cellphone calls each day were the first to go down. Landlines and the Internet quickly followed. The entire East Coast electrical power grid crashed under the stress of mock bombs exploding in gas pipelines and power stations, and the simultaneous arrival of a Gulf Coast hurricane. The officials – including former national intelligence czar John Negroponte and former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff – were unable to coordinate a countermeasure to the virtual attack.
This week, Dallas hosts the Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit, what organizers at the EastWest Institute are billing as one of the largest conferences ever on online crime and terrorism. More than 400 corporate executives, diplomats, retired military leaders, and White House officials will converge to address what the FBI recently called its “highest criminal priority.” The FBI says cybercrime cost Americans almost $560 million last year, more than double the 2008 tally, although experts say the true number is undoubtedly much higher, since many cyberattacks go unreported. Agent Charles Pavelites at the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a joint program of the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center, said that few as 10 percent to 20 percent of online scams and crimes are reported.