Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently warned that a future cyber attack on America could have an impact similar to Pearl Harbor or the attacks of September 11, 2001.

"Speaking at a meeting of the Business Executives for National Security (BENS) in New York, Leon Panetta called the Internet 'the battlefield of the future' and spelled out what he believes the Department of Defense's role should be in cyberspace," writes Computerworld's Martyn Williams. "The military's role in securing the domestic Internet and working against attacks on commercial institutions has been controversial, although Panetta sought to get the assembled business leaders on his side by warning them of the danger a large-scale attack could have on their companies."

"Panetta offered the highest-level confirmation to date of recent cyber attacks on U.S. and international computer networks and faulted Congress for failing to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation this year," writes Businessweek's Gopal Ratnam. "In the absence of such a law, President Barack Obama’s administration may issue an executive order, Panetta said."

"To illustrate the threat, Panetta cited the Shamoon virus, which was blamed for a cyberattack on Saudi Arabian oil company Saudi Aramco and Qatar's natural gas firm Rasgas in mid-August," writes CNET News' Steven Musil. "'All told, the Shamoon virus was probably the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date,' Panetta said. 'More than 30,000 computers that it infected (at Aramco) were rendered useless, and had to be replaced.'"

"Panetta said the attacks were probably the most devastating to ever hit the private sector," writes CNN's Pam Benson. "The secretary did not say who is believed responsible for those attacks, but senior defense officials who briefed reporters on the speech, said the United States knows, however they would not divulge the suspect. And he warned America's critical infrastructure -- its electrical power grid, water plants and transportation systems -- are threatened by foreign actors."