Our financial systems come to a halt because no one can trust the numbers in the computer systems that tell us how healthy financial institutions are, or what trades they have done for the last three months—and the Fed pumping in money has no effect. A nuclear power station melts down after the controls stop operating the safety systems, and the radioactivity results in the evacuation of a 30-mile area including one of the largest U.S. cities—and there is little prospect the area can be repopulated for decades.
It may be difficult for a government or terrorist group to get the resources to pull off such attacks, but the Stuxnet and Flame viruses directed at Iranian nuclear facilities could be heading in this direction.
There are other scenarios we can envisage: a tech employee under cover in our business, or embedded and timed code in systems purchased from offshore.
So far, there is no international organization that brings together like-minded countries to stop such threats, and we are only at the very early stages of creating resources that might help us defend these types of events by coordinating and sharing the resources of private companies.
Will such an attack come too soon for us to prevent, or will we Die Hard without Bruce Willis to save us?
|This post was part of the special feature about Our Scariest Risks, published October 29, 2012. The feature also included these other risks:|