The head of the FBI on Thursday said he expects the threat posed by cyber attacks on the United States in the coming years to eclipse the danger posed by al-Qaida, the Washington Post reported.
FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Homeland Security Committee he believes that by 2023 spying, thefts and attacks that occur in the digital realm will collectively represent the biggest security challenge confronting the United States.
"We have connected all of our lives -- personal, professional and national -- to the Internet," the director said. "That's where the bad guys will go because that's where our lives are, our money, our secrets."
Even as cyber threats are growing, senior U.S. security officials told the committee the chances the country would come under another large-scale terrorist assault are at their lowest levels since prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.
"That is why we anticipate that in the future, resources devoted to cyber-based threats will equal or even eclipse the resources devoted to non-cyber-based terrorist threats," Comey said.
The declining threat posed by al-Qaida is the result of the CIA's years of lethal aerial assaults on senior organization figures and operatives as well as other counter-terrorism activities.
While the danger represented by the terrorist group has been reduced, it has also become "more dispersed geographically" due to the establishment of new franchises and affiliates in North Africa, Yemen and Syria, testified Matthew Olsen, head of the National Counterterrorism Center. Because of this, the terrorism threat "has become more significant from a geographic perspective and more complicated from an intelligence perspective."
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