Washington, DC - The cyber threat is real. Cyber attackers have evolved from pranksters, lone wolves and organized gangs to nation-states and hacktivist groups. While the damage used to be limited to simple disruptions in service, today's cyber-attacks are leading to global, political and commercial uncertainty. These increasing attacks have resulted in significant losses of intellectual property, private data and national secrets.

Early attacks of viruses and worms, malware and Trojans have grown in complexity and sophistication to cross over into the physical world as hackers try to infiltrate and control computers within cars, generators, energy grids and other everyday systems.

Personal information is more susceptible than ever to hacking as more personal information is stored digitally. This vulnerability was most dramatically exposed when the Office of Personnel Management suffered a breach compromising millions of government employees' personal information.

The Department of Defense alone experiences 41 million scans, probes and attacks per month.

"The Navy Networking Environment consists of more than 500,000 end user devices; an estimated 75,000 network devices (servers, domain controllers); and approximately 45,000 applications and systems across three security enclaves," said Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, in a statement provided earlier this year to Congress.

Vice Adm. Tighe explained that the greater the attack surface or vulnerabilities in our systems, then the greater the risk to the mission.

Recent real world events and attacks on Navy systems, such as the 2013 hack into the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet that resulted in a significant Navy-wide effort to close vulnerabilities (Operation Rolling Tide), make clear that the cyber threat is increasing.

The reliance on connected capabilities has significantly increased the potential consequences of a cyber compromise. Once independent or isolated systems now rely on each other to link together our warfighters, ships, submarines, aircraft, land-based command centers and distant satellites.

The threat is personally and operationally real for every member of the Navy. It only takes one act to wreak havoc on the entire network and expose an opening to a cyber attacker.

Attacks are evolving as cyber attackers get smarter and more resourceful. Constant vigilance is the key to protecting the Navy from serious operational impacts as a result of cyber-attacks.