Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the U.S. must be prepared for a "large, Armageddon-scale" cyber attack during remarks Thursday at an annual conference of U.S. intelligence community members, but he said that was not likely.
"Cyber threats to U.S. national and economic security are increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication and the severity of impact," Clapper said. "Although we must be prepared for a large, Armageddon-scale strike that would debilitate the entire U.S. infrastructure, it's not our belief that that's the most likely scenario. Rather, our primary concern is the low- to moderate-level cyber attacks from a variety of sources which will continue and probably expand. This imposes increasing costs, as you indicate, to our businesses, to U.S. economic competitiveness and to national security."
"We must be prepared for a large Armageddon-scale attack that would debilitate our infrastructure," Clapper says off-script, says unlikely
— Spencer Ackerman (@attackerman) September 10, 2015
A report out Thursday showed the Department of Energy was hacked more than 150 times between 2010 and 2014, making it the latest government agency to be victimized by cyber attacks. A data theft from the Office of Personnel Management reported this year affected more than 21 million people.
Clapper also addressed the Syrian refugee crisis in his remarks:
"As they descend on Europe, one of the obvious issues that we worry about, and in turn as we bring refugees into this country, is exactly what’s their background?" Clapper said during remarks at an annual U.S. intelligence community conference in Washington, D.C.
"We don’t obviously put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees."
He deemed the possibility a "huge concern" among officials in the intelligence community as Western countries endure increasing pressure to accept Syrian refugees amid the Syrian civil war.
The United States has allowed in under 2,000 Syrian refugees. While Clapper on Wednesday lauded the "pretty aggressive" means by which U.S. authorities screen refugees attempting to enter the country, he added that he does not have as much faith in the systems set up by European nations.