Recently, the Wall Street Journal released an article stating that the National Security Agency (NSA) was in the process of instituting a plan to protect major government agencies and other vital companies from cyber attacks. The National Security Agency is the United States government's primary eavesdropping agency, and is dubbing the plan “Perfect Citizen.”
With the possibility of impending threats and cyber attacks at such a high level, many government officials feel that a plan such as Perfect Citizen is necessary to protect the country from devastating occurrences. Perfect Citizen would concentrate primarily on the systems used by government agencies as well as those involved with the nation's infrastructure, such as nuclear power plants, utility companies, major transportation services, and the like. Any large attacks on those systems could deal a major blow to the country and cause major panic.
Other large companies would also be able to receive the services of Perfect Citizen as well. Google, for example, asked for government assistance from the NSA when the company experienced cyber attacks from China at the end of 2009.
The initial report from the Wall Street Journal claimed that Perfect Citizen would involve the placement of monitoring sensors on participating computer systems. The sensors would be able to detect irregular activity, and would sound an alarm to alert those in charge of a possible impending attack. The most vulnerable networks, such as those used by companies with older systems, would be at the top of the priority list.
Since that article was released, officials from the NSA have denied the use of any monitoring sensors. The denial by the NSA of possible sensor usage is likely due to some backlash that has come about since the story was leaked. Many feel that by monitoring companies' systems, the government is being intrusive. Others, however, feel that it is a necessary evil, particularly when there have been reports of attempted attacks on the nation's electric grid in the past. These attempted attacks were believed to have originated in Russia and China.
Although the NSA denied the Wall Street Journal's allegations, agency officials declined to provide any specifics on the program. This lack of information was cited as being necessary due to the sensitivity of the project. Rather than being a monitoring program, the NSA claimed that Perfect Citizen is more of a contract to help assess possible risks that companies could face. Besides assessing risk, the program would also provide solutions to help the companies become more risk averse in the realm of cyber attacks.
Funding for Perfect Citizen is backed by the multi-billion dollar Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative. Defense company Raytheon is reportedly one of the companies that will help administer the project, and is said to have received a $100 million contract for their participation.
It is understandable that the NSA does not want to release too many details regarding Perfect Citizen. Cyber security is an increasingly delicate issue, and the livelihood of the United States depends on it. There will likely be many protests over any monitoring that could occur from the project, but if it succeeds in protecting the nation from cyber attacks, the sacrifice of privacy is one that should be made.
For more on this topic, visit: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-20010155-83.html%27
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