Security Agency merging offensive, defensive hacking operations
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[February 09, 2016]
By Dustin Volz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. National
Security Agency on Monday outlined a reorganization that will
consolidate its spying and domestic cyber-security operations, despite
recommendations by a presidential panel that the agency focus solely on
The NSA said the reorganization, known as “NSA21,” or NSA in the
21st century, will take two years to complete, well into the first
term of whoever is elected president in November.
A review board appointed by President Barack Obama recommended in
December 2013 that the NSA concentrate solely on foreign
intelligence gathering. The board's recommendations came as the
United States was reeling from disclosures from former NSA
contractor Edward Snowden about the collection of vast amounts of
domestic and international communications data.
Under the board's plan, a separate agency would have been housed
within the Department of Defense with responsibility for enhancing
the security of government networks and assisting corporate computer
Ignoring that recommendation, the Obama administration will replace
its separate spying and cyber-defense directorates with a unified
organization responsible for both espionage and helping defend U.S.
The "new structure will enable us to consolidate capabilities and
talents to ensure that we're using all of our resources to maximum
effect to accomplish our mission,” NSA Director Mike Rogers said in
a workforce address made publicly available on Monday.
Some technology specialists and privacy advocates have said the
government agency responsible for building and exploiting flaws in
computer software for spying purposes should not be the same one
entrusted to warn companies about detected software weaknesses.
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The presidential panel cited concerns about “potential conflicts of
interest” between the NSA’s offensive and defensive objectives, in
addition to the need to restore confidence with the U.S. technology
industry to induce better cyber-security collaboration.
“I hope the NSA will explain its strategy for continuing to rebuild
trust with the private sector,” Peter Swire, a professor of law at
the Georgia Institute of Technology, who served on the five-member
review group, said on Monday.
In November, the NSA told Reuters it informed U.S. technology firms
more than 90 percent of the time about serious software flaws it
found. The spy agency did not say how quickly it alerted those
firms, leaving open the possibility it exploits software
vulnerabilities before sharing details about them.
(Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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