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National Security: NSA, Healthcare.gov, Cybersecurity Legislation

Posted by Charles Winstead

The National Security Agency’s international cyberespionage campaigns continue to draw criticism from national and international leaders, with some even drawing comparisons to the Salem Witch Trials! And some Congressional leaders have demanded that President Obama “Take down this website,” referring to the “troubled” Healthcare.gov site. Finally, there are renewed calls for Congress to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation this year. A very busy couple of weeks in cyberspace.

Ever since a former NSA contractor exposed TOP SECRET data collection programs in May, the Obama administration has faced a torrent of embarrassing headlines at home and abroad. The leaders of Germany, France, Spain, Mexico, and Brazil have all lodged very public complaints to the President about the taping of their mobile devices and other espionage programs targeting their governments. Closer to home, former Vice President Al Gore publically denounced the program as “Anti-American” this week, and Senator John McCain, R-AZ, called listening in on Chancellor Merkel’s calls as a “mistake.” One think tank analysts said that we have known since 1692 and the Salem Witch Trials that if the government looks for witches, they will find witches. Critics say that the NSA’s screening of the general population to find terrorists will result in “false positives.” It is entirely possible that this practice will result in “trainloads of innocent Americans incorrectly flagged as terrorists, and no perceptible reduction to our overall risk from violence. The numbers simply do not support the NSA’s secret spying on Americans.” The debate continues.

The government’s newest website, Healthcare.gov, remains in the headlines as well. In its 62nd day, the focus on the new site has shifted from accessibility issues to security issues. Testifying  in Congress this week, one cybersecurity expert pointed out that a significant problem with the site is that security was not built into the site from its very beginning. “You can bolt a metal door on to make a house better, but if the foundation is bad….”  You get the point. After listening to a number of experts testify about vulnerabilities in the new website, Congressman Lamar Smith, R-TX, said “President Obama has a responsibility to ensure that the personal and financial data collected as part of Obamacare is secure. It is clear that is not the case today. Given the testimony we have heard today, there is only one reasonable course of action. Mr. President, take down this website.”

Finally, there are renewed calls for Congress to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation this year. A letter from the Financial Services Roundtable, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, and the American Bankers Association to Congress read “Cybercriminals threaten consumer privacy by persistently and aggressively attacking while those who want to protect that private data are hindered from sharing attack information by a system that is weakened due to uncertainty over liability concerns. Congress can change that.” We shall see how the Senate reacts to these industry leaders.

For more in depth coverage or to subscribe to the CyberPro Newsletter, visit the National Security Cyberspace Institute. The CyberPro Newsletter is written by Charles Winstead, a 30-year Air Force veteran.

 

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 21, 2013 7:42 pm

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