Deep Dive - Global Threats

Special report: America’s greatest threat is a hurricane-force cyberattack

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios 

For the past month, Axios has been interviewing people trusted with the nation’s most sensitive secrets. We wanted to know, in this time of acute geopolitical stress, which global threat worried them most, and which threats they thought weren’t getting the attention they deserved.

When we asked America’s foremost intelligence experts what keeps them up at night, one response came up over and over again: the risk of a crippling cyberattack.

The big picture: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said this week that the U.S. is in "crisis mode," comparing the danger of a massive attack to a Category 5 hurricane looming on the horizon. Intelligence chiefs from the last three administrations agree, and told Axios there is no graver threat to the United States.

The threat from America

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Russian aggression and the rise of China are among the biggest foreign policy concerns Americans face. In many countries, though, the world power seen as most threatening is the United States.

The big picture: Views of the U.S. and its leadership are in sharp decline around the world — particularly among America's closest allies.