NSA should beef up civil cybersecurity

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NSA should beef up civil cybersecurity

Ian Grant

The American equivalent of GCHQ is being promoted as the guardian of the US's cybersecurity, according to reports.

Congress yesterday heard National Intelligence director Admiral Dennis Blair say the National Security Agency (NSA) should assume a greater role in cybersecurity because of its technological prowess and current role in detecting attacks.

Like GCHQ, the NSA is responsible for codebreaking and electronic spying. The two agencies, together with equivalent agencies in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, were partners in the so-called Echelon project. Echelon was designed to watch the world's electronic communications for threats to the partners' national security.

GCHQ is the driving force behind the UK government's plans to snoop on every electronic message sent, received or passed through Britain.

Giving evidence to the House of Representatives intelligence committee, Blair acknowledged that many Americans distrust the NSA. The agency earlier ran the Bush Administration's secret programme of warrantless spying on some Americans' overseas phone calls.

"The NSA is both intelligence and military, two strikes out in terms of the way some Americans think about a body that ought to be protecting their privacy and civil liberties," Reuters reported Blair saying.

Earlier this month, President Obama asked Melissa Hathaway, the top cyber official with the intelligence director's office, to oversee a 60-day cybersecurity review.

Software, security and communications firms are expected to play a major role in recommendations to tighten both government and civil cybersecurity in the face of a perceived rise in threat levels from hackers and spies.

According to Reuters, Blair said, "The National Security Agency has the greatest repository of cyber talent. They are the ones who know what is 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."


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