White House Plans Proactive Cyber-Security Role for Spy Agencies

The White House could soon announce a policy in which U.S. spy agencies would play a role in collecting intelligence on cybersecurity threats, said an anonymous administration official. The official noted that the intelligence community is uniquely poised to counter cyberattackers who are continuously developing new intrusion strategies and taking advantage of unknown security holes in software and hardware to expose government networks. President Bush signed a directive in January that empowered the intelligence agencies to monitor all federal network traffic to prevent intruders from stealing sensitive data or disrupting vital systems, and the official said the directive will enable cyberthreat intelligence sharing between the government and the private sector. “We want a broader information flow to the private sector of the threats we’re seeing, so that they can increase their security posture as well,” the official stated. The majority of the 18 strategic objectives outlined in the cyber initiative are classified, but the official said the administration plans to issue additional details on at least a dozen of those goals, as soon as the Office of Management and Budget releases rules for assigning classification levels for data collected and shared under the new program. The SANS Institute‘s Alan Paller says intelligence agencies often face a dilemma in sharing new threat information with allies and the private sector because spy agencies frequently obtain intelligence by leveraging the same security holes in software and hardware used by America’s enemies. The Center for Democracy & Technology’s Jim Dempsey says the Bush administration has a tendency to tag even the most innocuous information as classified, which means the intelligence community may share less information with the private sector rather than more. “The more information that gets classified, the less likely the initiative will succeed,” he says.
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