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U.S. Launching Cyberattack Detection Program

July 8, 2010

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the U.S. is launching a program to detect cyberattacks on private U.S. companies and government agencies running critical infrastructures like the electricity grid and nuclear power plants.

The newspaper said that the National Security Agency (NSA) would carry out the surveillance.

The Journal reported, citing “people familiar with the program,” that it would rely on sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyberattack.

The report said that major U.S. defense contractor Raytheon recently won a classified contract for the initial phase of the surveillance effort that is valued at $100 million.

A U.S. military official told the Journal that the program was “long overdue” and would not constitute a violation of privacy.

The newspaper said that U.S. intelligence officials have grown increasingly concerned about suspected Chinese and Russian surveillance of computer systems that control the electric grid and the other U.S. infrastructure.

It said “Perfect Citizen” would concentrate on typically older computer control system that have been linked to the Internet since then, making them more efficient but also more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

“Because the program is still in the early stages, much remains to be worked out, such as which computer control systems will be monitored and how the data will be collected,” the Journal said.

The NSA would “likely start with the systems that have the most important security implications if attacked, such as electric, nuclear, and air-traffic-control systems.”

NSA chief General Keith Alexander was named the head of the newly created U.S. Cyber Command.

He said in a recent speech that the role of U.S. Cyber Command is to “deter, detect and defend against emerging threats against our nation in cyberspace.”

Alexander also said that effective cybersecurity would involve partnering along with the private sector.

“All of us in government recognize that we cannot do this without the help of industry, academia and our allies,” he said. “Securing cyberspace is a team sport.

“Securing our networks is not just a (military) issue, it is a national security issue with implications for all instruments of national power,” he said.

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