The Eagle’s Eye for October 4, 2009
From SamHenry, Editor
In these United States when we think of vulnerability on the national level, we immediately think of the inadequately monitored borders at Mexico and Canada.
But what about that endless border in Cyberspace? How many guards do we have there? Government oversight of the internet is so convoluted and spread out that it is hard to tell how many cyber cops the nation has.
With offensive measures and immediate responses to attack critical, it is unsettling that, although new departments, divisions and agencies have been created to streamline our defense against cyber crime/terrorism, many feel these initiatives have only added to rather than reduced the bureaucratic layers involved in the process. Obama’s own initiatives in this regard already point to reorganization and continued confusion.
One thing is certain, it is the Executive Branch of the federal government that has the most oversight of the internet throughout several departments — Justice, Homeland Security and the Office of the President – an office that seeks further extend the President’s control over the internet during times of national emergency [he already has authority in this area].
Obama wants a cyber security czar but is dragging his feet in appointing one. Many think the post should be filled as soon as possible. He may wait for the passage of his two “stealth” bills in Congress -Senate bills 773 and 778 or the Cyber Security Act 2009. Will these fly through or will citizens awaken to this and hamper progress?
Pre-2009 Government Cyber Security Initiatives:
- US-CERT, United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team is the nation’s primary early warning system for cyber threats. Established in 2003 and located at Carnegie Mellon University, it protects the nation’s Internet infrastructure and coordinates defense against and responses to cyber attacks across the nation. The US-CERT Current Activity web page is a regularly updated summary of the most frequent, high-impact types of security incidents currently being reported.
- In 2003, the National Cybersecurity Division (NCSD) was created as a division of the Office of Cyber Security & Communications within the US Department of Homeland Security. Charged with improving the United States defense against Internet-based attacks, it is an amalgam of a number of agencies that were sprinkled throughout the vast national bureaucracy, including the former National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) that was under control of the FBI, the Department of Commerce’s Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, and the General Services Administration’s Federal Computer Incident Response Center. It works closely with the public and with companies.
President Obama’s White House Initiatives:
- 2009, the administration signed an agreement with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) that loosens the U.S. government’s grip on the entity that administers the domain name system. There is concern that this agreement may have implications for potential legal and security risks if foreign powers are involved with the oversight and handling of data.
- 2009, The Justice Department has overhauled Justice.gov and signed on to four of the major social networks — Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube.
- President Obama’s joint national security and homeland security directive creating a National Cyber Security Initiative. The goal here is to inform people at home and at work what steps they may easily take to protect themselves from cyber crime/terrorism.
- Pending -Senate bills 773 and 778, introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., are both part of what’s being called the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, which would create a new Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor, reportable directly to the president and charged with defending the country from cyber attack. Presidential powers over emergency handling of the internet would be increased.
Clearly, the Obama Administration has been looking closely at the internet and internet issues since day one. Earlier this year, China moved to require installation of a type of filtering software on all PCs that would let them censor sites on the internet. They backed away from implementation of it beyond schools. The fact that this kind of capability exists has been eye-opening.
It is a well-documented fact that China and Russia spend more money and have more men and materiel devoted to cyberspace. Many of the breaches of our national systems have originated in China. The problem with a democracy with a penchant for bureaucracy is that it is difficult to tell who is responsible – even with initiatives in place to clarify initiatives.
The President perhaps should not be as eager to confirm or enhance his emergency powers over the internet. He should keep his head down. He may just find all of the calls regarding all things internet coming to his office. Who knows, he may have to call India to find out who in his government he can contact for help.