NSA's cybersecurity program to protect critical infrastructure revealed

By Skyler Frink
Documents that detail the NSA program "Perfect Citizen" were recently released by the NSA. The program, which was started in 2009 and ended up awarding Raytheon a contract in 2010, details the government's concerns on the security of sensitive control systems (SCS). The document defines SCS as systems that "perform data collection and control of large-scale distributed utilities or provide automation of infrastructure processes." The document goes on to say that preventing attacks on these systems is "crucial to the continuity of the DOD, the intelligence community (IC), and the operation of SIGINT systems."

The program is detailed, and involves investigating SCS for vulnerabilities and then developing best practices that defend against the vulnerabilities identified. In addition to detailing the program, the released documents include information on the positions available. From software and hardware production to penetration testers (also known as white hats, or people who test for vulnerabilities by attacking systems).

The program will have Raytheon employees working on it up through 2014, but many pages of the documents related to the program are still classified, and much of the information in the documents themselves has been censored.

With our electrical grid having been attacked recently , and new attempts to breach our critical infrastructure occurring constantly, it is interesting to see that a program has been in place to protect these vital assets for so long. The program clearly states that its goal is to develop ways to prevent attacks, or to mitigate their effectiveness, but the program is relatively small for the task it has been given. The program is only valued at $91 million, and the work force for the program is only 28 people.

It seems like an awfully big task for 28 people to handle. They are not only expected to find vulnerabilities, but to also develop tools and best practices to solve the problems these vulnerabilities cause. With the increased focus on cybersecurity, and the high stakes for failing to protect ourselves from cyber attacks, I wonder if it will be long before we see the program expanded.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

January 2014
Volume 25, Issue 1
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