President Barack Obama believes cyber terrorism is one of the biggest threats to national security and says the White House is bracing for a possible doomsday scenario if hackers can successfully penetrate government and business computer systems, the FOX Business Network has learned.
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The president shared his thoughts on cyber terrorism last week, during a fundraising tour in New York City and a stop in Greenwich Conn., according to people who attended the events. At the same series of events, the president also downplayed the threat of a large Ebola outbreak in the United States, citing the nation’s medical infrastructure as the main reason the deadly virus hasn’t spread as it has in West Africa, these people say.
A White House spokesman did not return requests for comment.
Event attendees included a mix of wealthy Democrats with ties to New York’s financial businesses, and celebrities as Mark Wahlberg and Rosie O’Donnell. At the fundraisers, the president laid out what one person with first-hand knowledge of the fundraising meetings called a “doomsday” scenario if hackers can successfully gain entry into government systems or breach security walls at major banks.
“The president is worried that cyber criminals could literally wipe out the identities of millions of people through some breach of government systems and that could lead to massive chaos,” this person said.
During one of the meetings in New York on Tuesday, at the home of former Intrepid Museum President Bill White, President Obama said it “would take Bonnie and Clyde a thousand years to do what three people in a room with a server can now do,” according to a person who was present.
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Those same three people said the president noted hackers “could steal $100 million" in a relatively short time and might be able to someday "take down the banking system” if the nation's cyber security doesn't improve.
The president’s remarks come as JPMorgan (JPM), the nation’s largest bank by assets, disclosed a massive cyber attack in which ahackers obtained the names and addresses of 76 million households. The bank said the hackers didn’t obtain more sensitive information, and were not able to access the personal accounts of customers.
Still President Obama said he expects cyber terrorism to only grow in the years ahead.
“He said 15 years ago, cyber terrorism wasn’t even on the radar screen, but that it will be one the biggest concerns for whoever is president after him," the person said.
Obama Confident on Ebola Containment
The president said he was confident the Ebola threat in the United States will be contained. His remarks came just days before a hospital worker in Texas tested positive for the deadly virus. The hospital worker helped treat Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who died of the virus last week,
“He (the president) was very confident about Ebola not spreading significantly here in the U.S.,” one fundraiser attendee said. “He explained how the virus kills immediately, and that our health system can contain it.”
Yet health officials have criticized the hospital system’s handling of Duncan’s case. Duncan was initially discharged from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas after suffering from a fever only to return as his health worsened when he was diagnosed with the Ebola virus.
While cyber security was clearly on his mind, President Obama also lamented about how the 24-hour news cycle makes his job much more difficult. “He said (John F Kennedy) waited weeks before giving a press conference on the Bay of Pigs,” said an attendee. “He was basically saying the media makes his job even tougher.”