Feeds

NSA setting up secret 'Perfect Citizen' spy system

'This is Big Brother', says corporate insider

Security for virtualized datacentres

The US National Security Agency (NSA) is embarking on a secret domestic surveillance project dubbed "Perfect Citizen", intended to monitor and protect important national infrastructure such as power grids and transport systems.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed government and industry sources, says that the NSA has awarded a "black" (classified) $100m contract to defence contractor Raytheon which will see secret monitoring equipment installed within US networks deemed to be of national importance.

According to the WSJ, Perfect Citizen has caused some disquiet among those in the know. It could be seen as the NSA - a military combat support agency whose focus is supposed to be on external threats - carrying out massive automated surveillance of American companies and citizens. The paper quotes an internal Raytheon email as saying that "Perfect Citizen is Big Brother".

The stated purpose of the project is to get a clear idea of the level of threat facing American infrastructure IT. Many older systems, designed in the pre-network world, have since been hooked up to the internet for ease of use and maintenance. It is feared by some in the US intelligence/defence community that unfriendly powers and organisations are already engaged in probing these systems with a view to learning how to attack them.

The NSA's Perfect Citizen equipment would be designed to flag up unusual network events indicating an impending cyber attack, according to the WSJ's sources.

"You've got to instrument the network to know what's going on, so you have situational awareness to take action," an unnamed military source told the paper.

Many of the networks that the NSA would wish to place Perfect Citizen equipment on are privately owned, however, and some could also potentially carry information offering scope for "mission creep" outside an infrastructure-security context. For instance, full access to power company systems might allow the NSA to work out whether anyone was at home at a given address. Transport and telecoms information would also make for a potential bonanza for intrusive monitoring.

The full scope of the project remains to be determined, according to the WSJ report, with no certainty as yet on which companies or types of companies would be asked to cooperate - or how much information the NSA would get access to.

The NSA - whose boss has now also been confirmed as head of the Pentagon's uniformed Cyber Command - apparently got the job by default, as it is considered the only US agency with enough network and cyber savvy to take the task on.

The Reg has contacted Raytheon and the NSA for comment on Perfect Citizen, but thus far has not received any reply. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Heavy VPN users are probably pirates, says BBC
And ISPs should nab 'em on our behalf
Former Bitcoin Foundation chair pleads guilty to money-laundering charge
Charlie Shrem plea deal could still get him five YEARS in chokey
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.