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NSA to take more active role in cyber security

Cyber Secure Institute : 02 March, 2009  (Technical Article)
The Cyber Secure Institute welcomes the expanded role recently announced for the National Security Agency of America to include a cyber security program
Rob Housman, Executive Director of the Cyber Secure Institute, issued a statement praising an announcement yesterday by Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence (DNI), that the National Security Agency (NSA) will be taking on a larger role in America's cybersecurity program.

Housman said, "DNI Blair's action is an enormously positive step for our nation's security. We strongly agree with DNI Blair's approach. In fact, we have previously called for action precisely along these lines in a report issued by the Institute on January 6, 2009."

DNI Blair stressed that "The National Security Agency has the greatest repository of cyber talent . . .' and that "[the NSA] know[s] best about what's coming back at us, and it is defenses against those sorts of things that we need to be able to build into wider and wider circles."

The Institute's report similarly emphasized that:

* "The NSA is the labouring oar in the federal government's technology security certification programs. As a result it has extensive expertise in reviewing and analyzing the real security of IT systems. The agency also has many of the world's best penetration experts on staff. This would give the NSA a major leg up in managing a set of carrots or sticks, or both, to drive private sector cyber security; they would know which systems meet the mark and which fall short. These capabilities mean that a shift to the NSA could be much more than a bureaucratic reshuffling of the deck chairs."

The Institute's call for greater NSA involvement also stressed that:

* "Even within the private sector, the NSA cybersecurity experts are highly regarded . . . . This cache might enable the NSA to work more productively within the tech community."
* "The NSA director also occupies a special place within the national security apparatus . . . . Putting corporate cybersecurity and . . . federal cybersecurity, into the director's hands could elevate the issue, which, as a practical matter is vital for progress with the bureaucracy of the federal government."
* "The NSA by virtue of what it is and what it does has a certain aura . . . . Companies have become rather comfortable dealing with DHS—gone are the days when companies just saluted like good foot soldiers when DHS called. Being 'invited' into a discussion with NSA might help move the dialogue, and real security, along."

Housman continued, "We hope that the NSA will use this new role to help drive our critical IT infrastructure away from today's inherently insecure systems to systems that can withstand the types of sophisticated, hostile cyber attacks our nation now faces every day. To this end, the Institute will soon be issuing a proposal for legislation that would empower the NSA to develop baseline cybersecurity standards for all critical IT systems across both the public and private sectors."
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