Jim Kouri
NSA, Google join forces to 'patrol' cyberspace
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By Jim Kouri
February 16, 2010

An alleged intrusion into Google's immense cyber system has provoked the Obama White House to accelerate in its plans for government monitoring of the Internet, something that is triggering alarms throughout the nation. According to the Obama White House, Google will now work with the National Security Agency (NSA) to stem a "crisis."

Cybersecurity is seizing more attention and budget dollars from the Defense Department at a time when China's alleged cyber attack on Google has underscored the urgency of the threat and the vulnerability of U.S. networks, according to John Kruzel of the American Forces Press Service.

The almost legendary MI5 British counterintelligence service is said to be deeply concerned over an increase in spying by Chinese operatives in the United Kingdom. Although intelligence experts aren't certain how widespread the problem is, they believe the espionage is rampant and a serious consequence of a global economy dependent on the Internet and cyber systems.

The Pentagon's number two commander described cyber threats as his primary concern, with a number of other defense and government officials sounding similar alarms over the prospect of what they've termed "cyber war."

"I'm often asked what keeps me up at night," Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said last month. "Number one is the cyber threat. If we don't maintain our capabilities to defend our networks in the face of an attack, the consequences for our military, and indeed for our whole national security, could be dire."

In the Pentagon's fiscal 2011 budget proposal unveiled this week, cybersecurity received a $105 million increase from the previous year. The department's sub-command dedicated to cyber warfare — a facility in Fort Meade, Maryland, known as U.S. Cyber Command — is slated for a fiscal 2011 budget of $139 million under the Air Force budget proposal, in addition to funding from the U.S Strategic Command, which oversees its operations.

At the same time, cybersecurity is featured prominently in a broad department self-assessment known as the Quadrennial Defense Review, a congressionally mandated report Pentagon officials released this week. Given the military's dependence on information networks, the QDR states, it's not surprising this infrastructure has emerged as a key target.

"Indeed, these networks are infiltrated daily by a myriad of sources," the report says, "ranging from small groups of individuals to some of the largest countries in the world."

U.S. military and corporate concern about cyber security was proved warranted by an alleged attack allegedly conducted by Chinese hackers on Google's networks that reportedly came in a wave of intrusions beginning in December, and which the search engine company publicly revealed last month.

"The recent intrusion of Google is yet another wake-up call about just how seriously we have to take this program," Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing yesterday.

"Cyber defenders right now have to spend more and work harder than the attackers do," he said. "And our efforts, frankly, are not strong enough to recognize [and] deal with that reality."

In the United States, the FBI is suspicious of Russia, Iran, and North Korea but there needs to be more focus on the Chinese. The feds estimate that there are over 2,600 Chinese front companies in the U.S.

The foreign intelligence threat within the United States is far more complex than it has ever been historically. The threat is increasingly asymmetrical insofar as it comes not only from traditional foreign intelligence services but also from nontraditional, non-state actors who operate from decentralized organizations.

However, many security experts frown on the U.S. government increasing its power over Americans' daily lives, including their time spent on the Internet.

One political strategist points to a statement by President Barack Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel: "Never let a crisis go to waste."

"Rahm Emanuel is a Chicago from-the-gut politician who is the last person you want having access to your personal information or monitoring your Internet activities," said political strategist Mike Baker. "This is a crisis that may be used to take action against Americans not the Chinese."

© Jim Kouri

 

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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