NSA Program to Monitor for Cyberattacks?

nsa program to monitor for cyberattacks logo

The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription required) that the United States’ National Security Agency—perhaps the largest intelligence-gathering organization on the planet—is launching a program dubbed “Perfect Citizen” to monitor for cyberattacks against both government agencies as well as private companies and organizations deemed to be important to the U.S. national infrastructure. The program would work by installing equipment on various public and private computer networks that would monitor traffic and trigger alarms in the event of suspicious activity or attacks; the Wall Street Journal reports defense contractor Raytheon has won the classified contract in tha $100 million range to supply and deploy the initial phase of surveillance gear.

News of the program is already drawing comparison’s to Orwell’s “Big Brother,” with the government monitoring Internet traffic not only on its own systems but of private corporations as well. It is not clear what sort of traffic monitoring Perfect Citizen might engage in, what sort of data is being collected, or how that data is being stored and used.

Others have expressed surprised the NSA and other agencies have not already put monitoring systems in place to detect common forms of network-based attacks. The Wall Street Journal quotes a U.S. military official likening Perfect Citizen to the types of protection the federal government deploys to protect against physical attacks on infrastructure, and the privacy implications as being of no more concern than traffic cameras.

The program is apparently being funded from the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative. Companies would not be required to participate in Perfect Citizen, but the government is apparently planning to offer incentives for private firms to do so. According to the story, the initial rollout of Perfect Citizen is aimed at older, legacy systems that were initially designed for site-specific functions—think air traffic control, electrical grid control, power plans, and transit systems—without network access or security, but which have subsequently been connected to the Internet.

News of Perfect Citizen comes just as South Korea reports a repeat of denial of service and malware cyberattacks that hit the country last year; the original attacks were blamed on North Korea, although more recent investigation finds no firm evidence the North Korean government was behind the acts. This year’s attacks were apparently launched from the same systems as last year, and caused no significant problems.

The most high-profile cyberattacks in recent months were a serious of sophisticated attacks against Google and other companies operating in China; in Google’s case, the attacks were intended in part to gain access to accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Google pledged to stop censoring search results in China as a result of the attacks, and moved its search Chinese search operation to Hong Kong; the company is currently waiting to see if it’s Chinese Internet Content Provider license will be renewed so it can continue to do business in the country.

Google has also reportedly been exploring a partnership with the NSA on cybersecurity matters.

Emerging Tech

Michigan’s former transportation chief has some advice for wannabe smart cities

After 31 years as Michigan’s transportation director, Kirk Steudle has seen it all, particularly with smart city projects. He spoke with Digital Trends recently about what makes smart cities work, and offers advice along the way.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
DT Daily

DT Daily: Windows woes, A.I. news anchors, and Disney’s streaming service

On the fourteenth episode of DT Daily, host Greg Nibler and guest Nicole Raney talked about the biggest tech stories of the day, including a troublesome Windows 10 update, China's A.I. news anchor, and more.

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.

Your MacBook can live in the lap of luxury with this leather case

Though there are several cases which we think are best for covering up MacBooks, Twelve South's Journal case is one of the newest available, providing luxurious leather coverage for your Apple laptop.

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.

15-inch MacBook Pro gets more powerful with new AMD Vega GPUs

Confirming Apple's quiet October announcement, new configurations for the top-range 15-inch Apple MacBook laptop are now available, coming complete with AMD Pro Vega 16 or Pro Vega 20 graphics cards on board.
Emerging Tech

Intel’s new ‘neural network on a stick’ aims to unchain A.I. from the internet

To kick off its first developer conference in Beijing, Intel unveiled the second generation of its Neural Compute Stick -- a device that promises to democratize the development of computer vision A.I. applications.

Convert your PDFs into convenient Word documents

PDF files are great, but few document types are as malleable as those specific to Microsoft Word. Here's how to convert a PDF file into a Word document, whether you prefer to use Adobe's software suite or a freemium alternative.

These laptop makers produce the most reliable, quality hardware today

If you want to buy your next laptop based around a specific brand, it helps to know which the best brands of laptops are. This list will give you a good grounding in the most reliable, quality laptop manufacturers today.

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…

Here are the best laptop deals for November 2018

Whether you've started a new school year, are shopping for a student, or you just need a new computer, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.

Black Friday 2018: The best deals so far

Black Friday is the biggest shopping holiday of the year, and it will be here before you know it. If you can't wait until November 23 to start formulating a shopping plan, we've got you covered.

Recover your beloved data with these great software tools

The best data recovery software isn't always free, but whether you've lost files on a hard drive, SD card, or even physical media like CDs and DVDs, there's a chance they'll be able to get that data back.