July 10, 2012

NSA Pushes For Better Monitoring Of Cyberattacks

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

Cyberattacks are progressing from exploitative to disruptive, and the threat is quickly escalating to destructive. That's according to General Keith Alexander, Commander of U.S. Cyber Command; Director of the National Security Agency; and Chief of the Central Security Service. General Alexander spoke about a need for the government to pass better laws against cyber security in a speech given at the Washington think tank American Enterprise Institute.

The General is calling for the U.S. to pass a law to protect the country from cyber-attacks. He called the legislation "vital," as mentioned in an article on the Telegraph UK.

"What I think we really need to be concerned about is where these (attacks) transition from disruptive to destructive," General Alexander said in his speech.

Such legislation will be controversial. It would give government authorities the power to monitor all online activity in varying degrees. He stresses that the government will use its power to monitor only when alerted to threats.

"Like the police force, like the fire department, they don't see around buildings waiting for a fire to come on, you call them when it happens," General Alexander said. "In cyberspace, I see very much the same thing in our partnership with industry."

It's akin to the knowledge that companies have the right to read emails and view online activity of its employees. For the most part, companies don't read employee email unless there is a reason to do so. One reason is the large amount of resources required to read every email and watch all online activity. Of course a company can still conduct random checks now and then, and so could the government.

While concern that such legislation would give the government too much power makes many uncomfortable, General Alexander is doing what he can to put the public at ease. "For situational awareness, we need to be able to see what's going on. I don't mean the government has to be in the network to see," he said.

Legislation would require U.S. companies, agencies and internet service providers to alert the government when there's suspicious activity on the network. That is typically when the NSA and partner organizations plan to step in to monitor, and shut down, any threats.

Some action is required, but questions remain whether the proposed legislation goes too far. General Alexander is doing what he can to get the legislation to be seen before the voting powers. Urgency is stressed when he says attacks are transitioning from disruptive to destructive. "And I think those are coming. We have to be ready for that," he said.

One concern is that the U.S. has more real estate to attack. "Statistically, the number of attacks is growing," General Alexander was quoted saying in an article on US News & World Report. "They're growing for disruptive [and] destructive, and our country has the bulk of this network. As a result, we're vulnerable."

The think tank where General Alexander spoke, the American Enterprise Institute, is comprised of scholars and supporters looking to increase individual opportunity and strengthen free enterprise. While such legislation might be viewed as regulation to stifle free enterprise and give more power to the government, it is important to get support from such an organization in order to get the government and its supporters to vote for increased cyber security.