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Citing PNC, U.S. Attorney Says Pittsburgh Is Ground Zero For Cyber Attacks

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Joined by one of the nation's top cyber-security experts, U.S. Attorney David Hickton was blunt about the impact of the cyber threat locally.

"I think everyone recognizes that we have been ground zero for some of these problems," said Hickton.

Hickton cited last year's Pitt bomb scares and the recent attack on PNC's online banking system that frustrated many customers.

"The problem is these critical infrastructure systems are very vulnerable to cyber-attack," noted former Defense Undersecretary Paul Kaminiski, now chair of the Rand Corporation.

Kaminski says America's energy, water, transportation and financial systems are at great risk.

"The likely occurrence will be a Pearl Harbor attack that will bring a good piece of this nation down," added Kaminski.

Hickton says he's made cyber security a top priority and meets first thing every Monday morning with his cyber team.

As for PNC, he says he reached out to the bank early on.

"The government part of this, without getting too specific, was because this was a rolling threat and we were aware when and where it was coming to PNC," said Hickton. "We were able to give them things from the toolbox to mitigate and reduce the threat."

When asked directly if he knew where the cyber-attack came from, Hickton was careful.

"I would be reluctant to say the source because the investigation is still continuing, but I have to be candid with you. If I were fully aware of the source, I'm not sure I would say," he told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

But Kaminski says government needs to de-classify more information to engage the public.

"To attack this problem seriously, the average person has to know more about the threat and what it means to them," he said. "And they don't today."

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