From the Security Experts

July 12, 2010

NSA Launches 'Perfect Citizen' Cybersecurity Program

By SIP Trunking Report Contributor

In the post-9/11 period, the protection of critical infrastructure has led to a Congressional hearing earlier this year. The National Security Agency has announced the plan for a program that would make it capable of assessing threats and empower it to deal with them. These capabilities will come to help secure critical infrastructure like power plants, air traffic control systems and the electrical grid. Called, The “Perfect Citizen” program, it will focus on mitigating cyber attacks on critical infrastructure like power plants, air traffic control systems and the electrical grid.

Perfect Citizen reportedly includes a classified $100 million contract with defense contractor Raytheon Corp.
“This contract provides a set of technical solutions that help the Naitonal Security Agency better understand the threats to national security networks, which is a critical part of NSA’s mission of defending the nation,” NSA spokeswoman Judith Emmel said in a statement.
The critical infrastructure providers are however, under close scrutiny by the government agencies on cyber issues since the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The government agencies have already engaged the IT industry in the issue.
The Department of Homeland Security has been the key government player, setting up efforts like the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team’s Control Systems Security Program, which aims to reduce risks to industrial control systems.
Last week, a memo was issued by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget clarifying agency, which is responsible for managing compliance with federal cybersecurity requirements. It said, “DHS oversees critical infrastructure protection.
Over all these years, DHS has maintained a continued presence in protecting critical infrastructure and has seen its overall cybersecurity profile increased in recent years. At the same time, NSA too has taken on new cybersecurity responsibilities.
The “Perfect Citizen” program raises unanswered questions about the government’s role in protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyber attacks, what technologies and processes might be used in such an effort, how any such effort would protect critical infrastructure owners’ independence as well as privacy, and whether the effort should be public rather than classified.
The classified nature of the project also raises questions. Lewis says he wishes more details were forthcoming, as CSIS has wanted to include more about critical infrastructure protection in a follow-on to a major cybersecurity report that became part of the backbone of President Obama’s initial cybersecurity strategy, but, according to Jim Lewis, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ technology and public policy program, “a lot of the details are classified and people are uncomfortable talking about it.”

Madhubanti Rudra is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Erin Harrison