October 23, 2014 08:36 UTC

Science & Technology

American Lawmakers Concerned about Cyber Attacks

Congressman compares threat from cyber attacks to the terrorist threat faced by the United States on September 11 | TECHNOLOGY REPORT

A security analyst looks at code at a cyber defense lab in the U.S.
A security analyst looks at code at a cyber defense lab in the U.S.

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From VOA Learning English, this is the TECHNOLOGY REPORT in Special English.
 
The head of an American congressional committee recently expressed concern about the threat of cyber attacks from China, Iran and other countries. Michael McCaul spoke at a meeting of the House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee. Congressman McCaul compared the threat from cyber attacks to the terrorist threat faced by the United States on September 11, 2001. But he added that this time the nation knows about the threat and is taking steps to fight it.
 
“We know that foreign nations are conducting reconnaissance on our utilities. They are penetrating our gas and water systems and also our energy grids. And if the ability to send a silent attack through our digital networks falls into our enemies’ hands, this country could be the victim of a devastating attack. Yet, while threats are imminent, no major cyber security legislation has been enacted since 2003.”
 
Several other lawmakers expressed concern about reports that China is to blame for most attacks against American computers and computer networks. Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Jane Lute told the committee that the Obama administration believes the attacks are an important issue.
 
“We have raised this issue of the attacks that are emanating from actors in China, with Chinese authorities. We’ve called on them to acknowledge it, take it seriously, understand it, to investigate it and stop it, and to work with us in creating broad norms of responsible cyber behavior.”
 
President Obama told ABC News last Tuesday that there has been a steady increase in the threat to cyber security from other nations and from criminals. He said the United States has taken part in what he called “tough talk” with China and other nations. 
Last week, a Chinese foreign ministry official said China is open to talks. But the official said China is a victim, and not responsible for computer crimes.
 
In February, President Obama signed an executive order dealing with cyber security. The order directs American agencies to improve information sharing on cyber threats. However, such orders do not carry the power of law.
 
A Senate bill on cyber security last year failed to get enough votes to pass. Some business groups and privacy rights activists expressed opposition to the measure. A new cyber security bill has been introduced in the House.
 
The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, spoke to Senators last week about cyber attacks. He noted that America’s biggest national security threat could come now from a computer keyboard instead of a terrorist bomb.
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