Cybersecurity Plan to Involve NSA

The Washington Post (07/03/09) P. A1; Nakashima, Ellen; Hsu, Spencer S.; Johnson, Carrie

Current and former government officials say the Obama administration's cybersecurity plan will involve the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and telecom firms.  Under the plan, a Bush-era program called Einstein 3 would employ NSA data and hardware to shield the networks of some civilian government agencies, while telecom firms would direct the Internet traffic of civilian agencies through a monitoring box that would seek out and hinder computer codes designed to intrude upon or otherwise compromise networks.  The program's purpose is to validate that telecom firms can route only traffic destined for federal civilian agencies via the monitoring system, and to test the technology's effective performance on civilian government networks.  The Obama administration is currently considering what components of Einstein 3 to retain, according to former government officials.  Experts say the best methods for protecting U.S. computer networks require the automated investigation of email and other electronic communications content, which is already facilitated by commercial providers.  Advocates of government involvement say such initiatives should tap the NSA's resources, particularly its database of computer codes that have been connected to cyberattacks or known foes.  Sources say the classified NSA system is capable of deciding how to handle malicious incursions, while the program's database also would contain feeds from commercial firms and the DHS' U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team.  However, potential NSA involvement is fomenting concern about unwarranted government surveillance of private communication, with former government official Stewart A. Baker noting that "the bitter battles over privacy and NSA's role in domestic wiretapping hang over cybersecurity like a toxic cloud."

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