US spy masters seek network security role
The spy agency that ran the Bush administration’s much-criticised eavesdropping programme may get greater responsibility for securing US computer networks amid fears that existing precautions are too weak.
According to Dennis Blair, the US director of national intelligence, the National Security Agency, which is responsible for code-breaking and electronic spying, should assume a greater role in cyber security because of its technological prowess and current role in detecting attacks.
“There are some wizards out there … who can do stuff. I think that capability should be harnessed and built on,” Blair says in testimony to the House of Representatives intelligence committee.
Some officials believe the Homeland Security Department, which plays a leading role in US computer security and is in charge of protecting federal civilian networks, is not up to the job.
And, predictably, Blair agrees: “The National Security Agency has the greatest repository of cyber talent,” he says. “They’re the ones who know best about what’s coming back at us, and it is defences against those sorts of things that we need to be able to build into wider and wider circles.”
Government concern over computer network vulnerability has risen as computer hackers become more sophisticated.
“A number of nations, including Russia and China, can disrupt elements of the US information infrastructure,” says Blair. “Cyber defense is not a one-time fix; it requires a continual investment.
The admiral says more international traffic monitoring is just one requirement of the eavesdropping campaign.