Arthur House currently serves as the chief cybersecurity risk officer in the state of Connecticut and he is warning Americans that we might not survive an attack that cripples our utilities.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, House explained that foreign states are breaching American utilities and the security perimeters that protect them from infiltration.
"In Connecticut, utilities have reported days in which they detected and deterred more than a million probes to their operating systems, many from foreign actors," he explained.
It's a frightening claim given that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called Russia-linked hacks an example of "prepping the battlefield" prior to an attack.
During a September hearing, House noted Karen Evins, assistant secretary for cybersecurity, energy security and emergency response at the Energy Department, warned America's energy infrastructure has become a major target for foreign cyber attacks.
"Energy cybersecurity and resilience has emerged as one of the Nation’s most important security challenges,” she said, adding she isn't confident utilities are ready to withstand an attack, particularly if it comes from Russia or North Korea.
"Evans is right," House wrote. "The potential damage from an attack on our critical infrastructure would be harrowing. It’s time we come up with a strategy to defend our nation from potentially crippling cyber attacks that would put states at the forefront of the fight."
He described a scene that sounds like something out of an apocalyptic film or dystopian teen novel. It would be like a natural disaster that replicates itself across the country.
"After just two weeks following an attack, we might exhaust reserve fuel to generate utility services, leading to shortages of potable water and an inability to treat sewage," he continued. "Public order would be strained, and we could expect significant out-migration of residents seeking water and electricity. The hit on commerce could be devastating."
His first suggestion is for the federal government to take over the burden and responsibility of handling cybersecurity defense themselves. Second, he wants to see the United States actually prioritize an offense.
"That might be an appropriate strategy for interstate electricity grids and gas pipelines, but it omits reference to our nation’s distribution systems," House wrote. "Those responsible for protecting the actual delivery of public utility services need to be front and center in this effort. The states, not the federal government, oversee and regulate the distribution of electricity, natural gas and water."
He explained that these are terrorist attacks and cyber should be seen as a "terrifying weapon" that is "silent, malignant, mutable, chaos-inducing and potentially deadly."
Instead of promoting our willingness to strike back, he urged the government o build an actual defense that brings states together and work on security instead of leaving everyone to fend for themselves.