Forget about the Ashley Madison and Sony hacks, a crippling cyber attack against the United States is imminent and something the entire nation, especially average people, need to start taking seriously (emphasis added):

By 2020 the US will be hit with an earthquake of a cyber-attack that will cripple banks, stock exchanges, power plants and communications, an executive from Hewlett-Packard predicted. Companies are nowhere near prepared for it. Neither are the Feds. And yet, instead of mobilising a national defence, we want a toaster that communicates with the washing machine over the internet.

In many ways the Target event and the dinner demonstrate a kind of collective cognitive dissonance about technology. We’ll eagerly pursue innovations like the internet of things and electronic health records even as we’re increasingly aware of how vulnerable such technology makes us to terrorists and criminals. In fact, the reference to earthquakes was fitting. Scientists have long predicted the “Big One” – a massive earthquake in Seattle or San Francisco that will kill lots of people and cause trillions of dollars of damage. Yet people still build houses and buildings on what is essentially the most dangerous land in the country.

What struck me about the dinner, attended by executives from Hewlett-Packard, software company Cloudera and PayPal, along with academics and investors, was the naked pessimism in the room. Nobody even tried to put a happy face on the situation. “A slow-moving train wreck,” one executive said. Forget about coordinating with each other or the Feds: companies don’t even know how to deal with their own hacks, never mind worry about someone else’s. A whopping 57% of chief executives have not been trained on what to do after a data breach, according to a report by HP. And more than 70% of executives think their companies only partially understand the risks. Buying antivirus software is one thing; deploying an effective strategy is quite another. However, companies don’t even want to admit they were hacked in the first place.

The entire article succinctly captures what many of us in the cyber security deal with each and every day.