FBI: Cyber threat might surpass terror threat

FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012, before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats.
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Today, FBI Director Robert Mueller told the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that he believes "the cyber threat will equal or surpass the threat from counter terrorism in the foreseeable future."

He elaborated on the breadth of the threat, saying "there is very little we do in this day and age that is not on or somehow associated with the internet. The theft of intellectual property, the theft of research and development, the theft of the plans and programs of a corporation for the future, of all which are vulnerable to being exploited by attackers."

On Tuesday, Mueller testified at the Senate Select Intelligence committee's hearing on worldwide threats. He had similar warnings about cyber security, and elaborated on three ways the FBI and intelligence agencies need to address the concern.

He said that within the FBI, they have to change their organizational structure "in the same way we changed to address terrorism."

Secondly, he noted that intelligence agencies "have to share information" in the same way "we had to share intelligence in the wake of September 11th...we have to build up the collective addressing of that threat, in the same way that we did so and broke down the walls in the wake of September 11th."

Finally, there is legislation the FBI would like passed to help combat the cyber threat. He said there has to be a national reporting requirement for data breaches, and that "we should be the recipients of that reporting." Built in that legislation he thinks there needs to be "the ability to share the information indicative of a crime with the bureau and others who have that responsibility."

This comes just over a month after CBS Justice and Homeland Correspondent Bob Orr predicted "cyber security catches terrorism -- maybe even passes terrorism -- as our top domestic security concern. And I think we're about due for the first true cyber-attack on a piece of critical infrastructure, so we should watch for that." Orr made this prediction on the Dec. 25 edition of Face the Nation during the show's annual CBS Correspondents end-of-year roundtable.

National Security Correspondent David Martin, Senior Business Correspondent Anthony Mason, Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes, Chief White House Correspondent Norah O'Donnell, Political Director John Dickerson and Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer all made predictions as well - some of which might just be on their way to coming true. Read theirs here.

And, for the record, Orr is now two-for-two in his year-end predictions on Face the Nation. On the January 3, 2010 edition he predicted the rise of homegrown terror threats from radicals in the United States reaching out to known operatives. 

Watch the video of their predictions here.