President Obama to Introduce Cybersecurity Proposal Today

May 12, 2011 10:27am

Believing the U.S. to be too vulnerable to cyber-terrorism, President Obama will later today introduce a proposal to address the threat.

The law will address “complex and systemic national vulnerabilities that place the American people and economy at risk,” an administration official said.

To many Americans “cyber-security” may sound nerdy and irrelevant to their lives, but the nation’s top national security officials have been warning about the threat as dire and potentially catastrophic.

Last June, CIA director Leon Panetta told ABC News’ This Week that he worried about cyber security.

“We are now in a world in which cyber warfare is very real,” he said. “It could threaten our grid system. It could threaten our financial system. It could paralyze this country, and I think that's an area we have to pay a lot more attention to.

In February Panetta testified to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that “the potential for the next Pearl Harbor could very well be a cyber-attack.” 

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the committee: “This threat is increasing in scope and scale, and its impact is difficult to overstate.”

The administration official tells ABC News that while the Obama administration “has taken significant steps to better protect America against cyber threats,…it has become clear that our nation cannot fully defend against these threats unless certain parts of cybersecurity law are updated.” The official said that President Obama’s “proposal strikes a critical balance between strengthening security, preserving privacy and civil liberties protections, and fostering continued economic growth.”

National security officials estimate there are now roughly 60,000 new malicious computer programs identified each day. As just one example, in April 2010 telecommunications companies in China rerouted about 15 percent of the world's online traffic, affecting NASA, the U.S. Senate, the four branches of the military, the office of the Secretary of Defense and a number of Fortune 500 companies by displaying false computer data that rerouted data through Chinese internet servers for about 17 minutes.

The White House estimates that there were approximately 50 cyber-related bills introduced in the last session of Congress. Senate Democrats wrote to President Obama and asked for him to weigh in.

 -Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) and Jason Ryan (@JasonRyanABC)

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