Cybersecurity experts have long warned that computer hackers could potentially target electric power sources, such as power plants and electrical grids, and that these attacks could affect vital infrastructures, including hospitals and water treatment plants.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said at the cybersecurity event sponsored by the Washington Post, that a major computer attack against critical U.S. infrastructure could result in a loss of life and massive economic damages. “The network intrusion that shuts down the nation’s critical infrastructure could cause loss of life but also a huge economic loss. We’ve seen attempts on Wall Street, transportation systems, things of those sorts.”

DHS offices had been probed in computer intrusions by hackers attempting to infiltrate the department’s systems; Janet Napolitano declined to comment on the specifics of the intrusions or specify if the intrusions had specifically targeted her office. She discussed a wide range of computer security issues at the cybersecurity event and urged Congress to push forward with cybersecurity legislation that the White House had proposed in May 2011. Napolitano said she hoped the legislation could gain strong bipartisan support.

“Cyber attacks are increasing in frequency, in complexity and in consequence,” Napolitano said. Although the DHS Secretary declined to address specific instances, there have been a slew of high-profile hacking intrusions in the recent years.

Loss of Life in Major Computer Attack, Warns Homeland Security

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