[...] The internet, said former national intelligence director Michael McConnell, "is the soft underbelly" of the US today. Speaking recently at a new cybersecurity exhibit at the International Spy Museum in Washington, McConnell said the internet has "introduced a level of vulnerability that is unprecedented".
The Pentagon's computer systems are probed 360 million times a day, and one prominent power company has acknowledged that its networks see up to 70,000 scans a day, according to cybersecurity expert James Lewis.
The exhibit at the Spy Museum - Weapons of Mass Disruption - tries to bring that threat to life.
A network of neon lights zigzags across the ceiling. Along the walls computer screens light up with harrowing headlines outlining the country's digital dependence. Drinking water, sewer systems, phone lines, banks, air traffic, government systems, all depend on the electric grid, and losing them for weeks would plunge the country into the 1800s.
Suddenly, the lights go out and the room is plunged into silent darkness.
Seconds later as the sound system crackles, a video ticks off a pretend crisis: no food, no water, system shutdown.
That faux threat has become a prime concern for the government, but fully protecting the grid and other critical computer systems are problems still waiting a solution.
Federal agencies, including the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, are pouring more money into hiring computer experts and protecting their networks.
But there are persistent questions about how to ensure internet traffic is safe without violating personal privacy. [...]
Read the whole thing for details. The power grid and many other systems are tied into, and relying on, the internet. Systems that never used to be, systems that got along fine without the internet before. But as they become increasingly reliant on the web, it presents a growing vulnerability. People may not take the threat seriously enough, until they experience the danger first-hand.