Is Cyberattack the Next Pearl Harbor?

57 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2016 Last revised: 10 Jan 2017

See all articles by Lawrence J. Trautman

Lawrence J. Trautman

Prairie View A&M University - College of Business; Texas A&M University School of Law (By Courtesy)

Date Written: March 25, 2016


Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta states in his Secretary of Defense confirmation testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that, “The next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyberattack that cripples America’s electrical grid and its security and financial systems.” Cyberattacks have become a daily threat to businesses, consumers, and all nation states resulting in the profound loss of economic assets and intellectual property. Cyberattack represents a real threat to geopolitical stability and world peace.

This article depicts a fictional scenario of what a cyberattack on a massive scale might look like. First, a possible scenario of such a cyberattack is presented. Second, for historical perspective, the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor is discussed. Third, is a review of contemporary and credible warnings. Fourth, is a discussion about the privacy versus national security debate, and geopolitical developments that determine the stage upon which the cyber drama may be played-out. Fifth, the question of what is to be done is addressed. Next, the 1946 Congressional Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack’s recommended principles (designed to prevent the repetition of such a future attack) is reviewed with our contemporary environment in mind and in search of lessons to be learned. Thoughtful people everywhere will do well to remember that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Keywords: Big Data, Botnet, Cloud, Crime, Cyber, Cyberattack, Cyber War, Data Breach, Encryption, Foreign Policy, Hackers, Information Technology, International Law, Internet of Things, Malware, Military History, Mobile Internet, National Security, NSA, Risk, Sensors, Surveillance, Vulnerabilities, Weapons

JEL Classification: H56, L9, L94, L95, L96, L97, K1, N4, O30, O34, O38

Suggested Citation

Trautman, Lawrence J., Is Cyberattack the Next Pearl Harbor? (March 25, 2016). North Carolina Journal of Law and Technology, Vol. 18, 232 (2016), Available at SSRN: or

Lawrence J. Trautman (Contact Author)

Prairie View A&M University - College of Business ( email )

Prairie View, TX
United States

Texas A&M University School of Law (By Courtesy) ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX Tarrant County 76102
United States

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