Cyber warfare more dire and likely than nuclear
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The threat of a cyberattack is a clear and present danger to America and is more likely than a nuclear attack.

What exactly is a credible cyber threat?

This is how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has defined it:

Cyber threats to a control system refer to persons who attempt unauthorized access to a control system device and/or network using a data communications pathway. This access can be directed from within an organization by trusted users or from remote locations by unknown persons using the Internet. Threats to control systems can come from numerous sources, including hostile governments, terrorist groups, disgruntled employees, and malicious intruders.

I recently had a meeting with a former top U.S. intelligence appointee as well as a gentleman who is recognized as one of the world's top experts on the internet. The topic of the meeting was the current and real threat of a cyberattack on our homeland or our interests around the world. The meeting was sobering and fascinating. What was clear is that America is vulnerable and gaps exist in both prevention and the response on the part of the government and private sectors.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the American people asked, how is it possible that our government didn't see it coming or that we were unable to prevent it? How was it that we were not able to connect the dots?

America has become good at responding to crisis, but we have not been very good at avoiding it.

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The White House, Congress and the business community have been warned of the clear and present danger of cyberattacks. We know that those who seek to do America harm like China, Iran, Russia, North Korea and others are constantly hacking, probing and attacking our internet infrastructure. Yet, in light of the thousands upon thousands of these daily attacks, we as a nation are ill-prepared for a devastating coordinated attack to our banking system, energy grids, transportation infrastructure and/or military assets, etc.

This is what the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported with regard to foreign capabilities:

There are countries that could launch damaging cyber attacks. At least 5 militaries have advanced cyber-attack capabilities, and at least another 30 countries intend to acquire them. These high-end opponents have the resources and skills to overcome most defenses. Just as only a few countries had aircraft in 1914 but most militaries had acquired them 10 years later, every military will eventually acquire some level of cyber-attack capability. Cyber attacks will likely be used only in combination with other military actions, but they will be part of any future conflict.

The president has a well-thought-out protocol in the event of a nuclear attack on the U.S., but sadly has no such protocol exists in the event of a massive cyberattack. The president is never more than a few steps away from the "nuclear football" (the name given to the attache case carried by the president's military aide that contains the codes to launch a retaliatory strike in the event of a nuclear attack on the U.S.). The president has as much as 30 minutes to respond in the event of a nuclear attack. However, in the event of a cyberattack, a president may only have seconds to respond.

According to the experts, there does not exist the legal authority to stop an attack or to properly retaliate to a massive cyberattack to America. Our intelligence officials may be able to see it coming, but lack the necessary and proper command and control similar to the protocols of a nuclear attack to deal with it at a level of the commander in chief.

Article II of the Constitution sets forth the duties and responsibilities of the president as follows, starting here with the oath of office:

Section 1: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Section 2: "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States. ... "

The greatest threat to America in this day and age is not nuclear warfare, but cyber warfare. It is not a question of if America will be attacked; it is a question of when.

The generalized constitutional responsibilities of the president must be codified by statute to reflect this new threat, allowing for the president to respond as commander in chief to an act of cyber warfare.

The primary role of government is to prevent harm, not merely to respond robustly to it. Now is the time for the president to carry cyber warfare options as closely as he does nuclear.

The federal government must also act immediately to institute the necessary, proper and reasonable responsibilities on government and private-sector industries to protect itself from cyberattacks. The failure of government and private-sector industry to be prepared for cyberattacks is inexcusable.

Now is the time to make sure our government and the most vulnerable private-sector enterprises are able to thwart attack by instituting protocols and coordinating and disseminating information.

The costs to human life, continuity of government and protection of our most vulnerable private-sector businesses demand that we act now.

And now is the time to challenge those running for president to address the threat of cyberattacks and what they will do to reduce or eliminate them.

Blakeman is professor of public policy, politics and international affairs at Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies and was a member of President George W. Bush's senior White House staff from 2001 to 2004. He is also a frequent contributor to Fox News and Fox Business Channel.