NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers says its a matter of "when, not if" state-sponsored hackers hit critical US infrastructure.
In a speech at RSA, the world's largest cybersecurity conference held in San Francisco, Rogers mentioned the possibility of hackers taking out critical infrastructure — like the power grid, communications, or emergency services — as one of the things that keeps him up at night.
"Seven weeks ago it was the Ukraine," Rogers said, referencing a cyberattack that killed the power to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian homes in December. "That wasn't the last we're going to see of this. That concerns me."
Rogers does have some reason to worry, given recent events. The cyberattack in Ukraine, which the US believes was sponsored by Russia, used malicious software called BlackEnergy to not only disable computers tied to the power grid, but also hinder efforts to bring the computers back online. Another recent attack targeted Israel's Electric Authority.
Among other items Rogers mentioned as his top priorities were thwarting data theft and manipulation of trusted software, and stemming the ability of non-state actors to recruit online, hide their money, and use cyber weapons.
"What happens when those same actors use cyber as a tool for destruction?" he said. "They are interested in tearing the status quo down."