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A large-scale attack on critical infrastructure will soon become a reality, according to RSA chief executive Art Coviello.
The security boss said that poor government security protections combined with increasingly sophisticated attack techniques has left critical infrastructure at risk for attacks which could cause widespread damage.
"I abhor the phrase “Cyber Pearl Harbor” because I think it is a poor metaphor to describe the state I believe we are in," Coviello said.
"However, I genuinely believe we are only a whisker away from some form of lesser catastrophic event that could do damage to the world economy or critical infrastructure."
The RSA chief said that the issue was being made worse what he sees as inadequate laws protecting user privacy. With governments dragging their feet on new and more effective legislation, Coviello believes companies are unable to protect themselves from breaches and intrusions.
In the future, Coviello believes that governments will need to improve privacy laws and make better use of big data and analytics platforms to spot and remedy potential security risks and attack vectors.
Critical infrastructure has long been an area of concern for governments. With embedded devices and other systems being brought into the network, administrators are being tasked with protecting systems which had not traditionally required network security measures.
One area which Coviello has hope for is cloud computing. He suggested that the emergence of cloud platforms will help to expand security protections and overcome skill shortages.
"In an age where breaches are probable, if not inevitable, organisations are realizing that static, siloed, perimeter defenses are ineffective against the evolving threat landscape," he explained.
"Only an intelligence-based model that is risk-oriented and situationally-aware can be resilient enough to minimise or eliminate the effects of attacks."