Critical infrastructure: Off the web, out of danger?

While most of those systems are not directly connected to the internet, critics say there are still plenty of ways for hostile actors to get control of them

The debate over the chances of a catastrophic cyber attack taking down a major part of the nation’s critical infrastructure (CI) has been ongoing for a generation.

But it hasn’t been settled – in some ways it is more intense now than ever.

On one side are those, including high government officials, who warn of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” that could leave swaths of the country in darkness and cold – without electric power – for months.

Retired Adm. James Stavridis, dean at Tufts Fletcher School and a former NATO supreme allied commander, used that term just three months ago, saying such an attack would be aimed either at the electrical grid or the financial sector.

"It is the greatest mismatch between the level of threat, very high, and the level of preparation, quite low," he told CNBC in December.

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