“America is at war,” FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told attendees at an agency information technology conference.
Malicious attacks on the FAA’s computer system and industrial networks are occurring at an unprecedented rate, he said, adding that it is an evolving menace on an international scale.
The FAA gets pinged every minute of every hour of the day, he reported, noting that people probing for a soft spot are highly trained, highly skilled and highly motivated to bring the United States to its knees.
Babbitt told the group that every radar, every link, and every phone line that makes the system go is a target. Few government agencies, he said, have reaches like the FAA, with so many moving parts and a public that moves with it.
Aviation is more than just planes, Babbitt declared, it represents the country’s freedoms and is supported by a large scale computer network.
He said those who want to harm our country are looking to invade our infrastructure for intelligence gathering, to steal intellectual property, and to disrupt our operations. Attempts to get into the system are not mischief but an organized, methodical, persistent attack that works three shifts around the clock.
Most of America is asleep at the switch, Babbitt warned, and that is the biggest weapon that those who want to hurt us have. He cautioned all to be on constant alert, saying that every time a computer is logged on and left unattended, or a laptop with sensitive information left sitting in the open, “chances are the bad guys see it too.”
Babbitt called for greater sharing of information and alertness to any intrusions.
“A cyber attack is no less deadly than a grenade — and capable of doing far more damage,” he said.
Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.