Bush’s Budget Repeats Cybersecurity Mistakes
The Bush administration wants to place more black boxes on private-sector computer networks. We’ve already learned a lot about the NSA wiretap program and its Narus STA 6400 splitter — that’s the black box that AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein reported the NSA placed at a major node for voice and Internet communications (inside this secret room).
The president’s budget wants to go much further. It moves beyond telcos and allocates $6 billion for a secretive system that is designed to protect government and private computer systems from attack. According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House proposal “would likely require the government to install sensors on private, company networks.”
This proposal repeats the mistakes of the Federal Intrusion Detection Network, which proposed similar monitoring of private computer systems when it was proposed in 1999. That aspect of FIDNet was quickly withdrawn, for at least three good reasons:
1. Private companies are understandably reluctant to permit the government to attach unknown hardware or software to their corporate systems. The risks of security breach and operational problems are too high, especially given the long history of computer security failures by the federal agencies themselves.
2. Direct federal intervention in private computer systems raises innumerable legal and policy issues about privacy, the Fourth Amendment, and the scope of government surveillance.
3. The new proposal ignores the sensible principles for cybersecurity that were adopted in the wake of the FIDNet fiasco and built into the Federal Computer Incident Response Center. Quite simply, the federal government should adopt best security practices that apply to private systems.
Under this approach, the federal government should adopt state-of-the-art intrusion detection software and other measures for its own systems to combat intrusions into federal systems. The federal government should not, however, try to install its equipment into private systems.
To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:
Print: Liz Bartolomeo (poverty, health care)
202.481.8151 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or email@example.com
Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education)
202.478.6331 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Print: Tanya Arditi (immigration, Progress 2050, race issues, demographics, criminal justice, Legal Progress)
202.741.6258 or email@example.com
Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues, TalkPoverty.org, faith)
202.478.5328 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Print: Beatriz Lopez (Center for American Progress Action Fund)
202.741.6255 or email@example.com
Spanish-language and ethnic media: Rafael Medina
202.478.5313 or firstname.lastname@example.org
TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or email@example.com
Radio: Sally Tucker
202.481.8103 or firstname.lastname@example.org