In his annual remarks before Congress on Tuesday March 12, the highest ranking U.S. intelligence official, James R. Clapper, Jr., reported that there is a "remote chance" that a major cyberattack in the next two years could have a devastating impact on the nation's economy and infrastructure.

According to a report in the New York Times, this is only the second time since 2001 that something other than international terrorism has topped the threat list. The global financial crisis was cited in 2009 by former Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair as the primary threat to U.S. security. 

“In some cases," Clapper testified, "the world is applying digital technologies faster than our ability to understand the security implications and mitigate potential risks."

Clapper's testimony comes on the heels of President Obama's executive order on cybersecurity last month, as well as National Security Adviser Tom Donilon's pleas earlier this week that China conform to "acceptable norms of behavior in cyberspace" following growing evidence that the Chinese military has perpetrated cyberattacks on U.S. companies and government agencies. 

The address from Clapper also referenced cyberattacks on a Saudi oil company and American financial institutions, both thought to have originated in Iran.

James R. Clapper Jr. image courtesy of Allvoices.com