Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Presidential Directive Places U.S. Government Cyber Security under NSA

The Washington Post reported on the recent signing of a classified National Security Presidential Directive (number 54) that transfers responsibility to the NSA and other intelligence agencies for monitoring U.S. government networks. Previously, NIST performed this function.

The powers of other government agencies was also expanded, according to the report:

"Under the initiative, the NSA, CIA and the FBI's Cyber Division will investigate intrusions by monitoring Internet activity and, in some cases, capturing data for analysis, sources said.

The Pentagon can plan attacks on adversaries' networks if, for example, the NSA determines that a particular server in a foreign country needs to be taken down to disrupt an attack on an information system critical to the U.S. government. That could include responding to an attack against a private-sector network, such as the telecom industry's, sources said.

Also, as part of its attempt to defend government computer systems, the Department of Homeland Security will collect and monitor data on intrusions, deploy technologies for preventing attacks and encrypt data. It will also oversee the effort to reduce Internet portals across government to 50 from 2,000, to make it easier to detect attacks."

The motivation behind the change was:
"...aimed at securing the government's computer systems against attacks by foreign adversaries and other intruders. It will cost billions of dollars, which the White House is expected to request in its fiscal 2009 budget. "The president's directive represents a continuation of our efforts to secure government networks, protect against constant intrusion attempts, address vulnerabilities and anticipate future threats," said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel."
Critics on both side found fault with the directive. Opponents fear the extended powers of intelligence agencies to monitor communications of U.S. citizens and proponents believe the directive did not go far enough is limiting the monitoring only the U.S. government networks:
"Supporters of cyber-security measures say the initiative falls short because it doesn't include the private sector -- power plants, refineries, banks -- where analysts say 90 percent of the threat exists."

Bush Order Expands Network Monitoring

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