Concurrent Biological, Electromagnetic Pulse and Cyber-attacks: The Ultimate Interagency Response Challenge
by Patricia Rohrbeck
The critical infrastructure components of an advanced society—telecommunications,
transportation, banking and finance, petroleum and natural gas, food and water, public health and healthcare, and security—have at least one feature in common: All depend upon electrical and cyber power. Two well-known threats— electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and cyberattack—could, operating in tandem, disable not just a significant portion of the electrical grid and critical infrastructure, but also the network-centric military response to such an attack. If a high-altitude EMP attack were paired with both a large-scale cyberattack and a biological attack, the resulting challenge to the interagency could surpass anything the interagency is currently structured or equipped to respond to.
Current preparedness and response plans focus primarily on one weapons of mass destruction (WMD) attack mode at a time. However, an EMP and cyberattack would amplify the effects of a biological attack and vice-versa. The ramifications of such a combination of attacks are staggering:
- Detection of biological agents could be disabled after an EMP and cyberattack because
electronic healthcare-surveillance systems would be no longer operational and could no
longer process and exchange information among agencies.
- Laboratories would no longer receive or process suspected specimens to identify
potentially hazardous biological agents. Without a timely response, the spread of disease
in a population may not be contained during its early stages and could lead to outbreaks
and epidemics. Without the ability to detect biological agents, public health officials
cannot initiate timely treatment and preventive measures…
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|About the Author: U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Patricia Rohrbeck serves at the 779th Medical Group, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. She holds a Dr.P.H. degree in Public Health Practice and received a M.S. degree in WMD Studies as a National Defense University Countering WMD Graduate Fellow.|