SAN FRANCISCO–Homeland Security and the National Security Agency may be taking a closer look at Internet communications in the future.
The Department of Homeland Security’s top cybersecurity official told CNET on Wednesday that the department may eventually extend its Einstein technology, which is designed to detect and prevent electronic attacks, to networks operated by the private sector. The technology was created for federal networks.
Greg Schaffer, assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications, said in an interview that the department is evaluating whether Einstein “makes sense for expansion to critical infrastructure spaces” over time.
Not much is known about how Einstein works, and the House Intelligence Committee once charged that descriptions were overly “vague” because of “excessive classification.” The White House did confirm this week that the latest version, called Einstein 3, involves attempting to thwart in-progress cyberattacks by sharing information with the National Security Agency.
Greater federal involvement in privately operated networks may spark privacy or surveillance concerns, not least because of the NSA’s central involvement in the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping scandal. Earlier reports have said that Einstein 3 has the ability to read the content of emails and other messages, and that AT&T has been asked to test the system. (The Obama administration says the “contents” of communications are not shared with the NSA.)
“I don’t think you have to be Big Brother in order to provide a level of protection either for federal government systems or otherwise,” Schaffer said. “As a practical matter, you’re looking at data that’s relevant to malicious activity, and that’s the data that you’re focused on. It’s not necessary to go into a space where someone will say you’re acting like Big Brother. It can be done without crossing over into a space that’s problematic from a privacy perspective.”
(Damn the Fourth Amendment, Full speed ahead!—gcdaz)