CIA director John Deutch says attacks on electronic networks that encompass everything from national security to banking records are a growing threat.
"The electron is the ultimate precision-guided weapon," he said.He told a Senate committee Tuesday that intelligence and law enforcement agencies are "fully alerted" to the threat, but predicted there will be "very, very large and uncomfortable incidents" of "cyber warfare."
Deutch said targets could include air traffic control, power plants, banks and international funds transfers. In addition, he said that military forces are increasingly dependent on computers and high-tech communications.
"There is a highly classified intelligence estimate that focuses on foreign attacks on the public-switched telephone network system of this country," the CIA director said.
At the same time he described the threat as widespread and difficult to track, Deutch said that cyber attacks require highly sophisticated knowledge.
"I feel confident that with the development of both expertise and techniques, it is not . . . an unsurmountable problem," he said. "We won't be able to spot everybody or spot everybody quickly. But, with time and with ingenuity, we will do well in defending ourselves."