Risk
1/9/2013
04:25 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Documents Detail NSA's 'Perfect Citizen' Cybersecurity Work

Documents confirm National Security Agency's penetration testing of U.S. critical infrastructure control systems and a related five-year contract with Raytheon, but are heavily redacted.

Military Drones Present And Future: Visual Tour
Military Drones Present And Future: Visual Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Documents recently obtained by privacy advocacy group the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) provide new details on a secret and provocatively-named National Security Agency effort to improve cybersecurity at U.S. critical infrastructure sites.

Officials have long warned about vulnerabilities in the U.S. electrical grid and other critical infrastructure facilities, and both the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security have programs underway to help secure critical infrastructure networks and systems. The National Security Agency itself has been linked to the Stuxnet attacks on control systems at Iran's Natanz nuclear plant.

The documents, released pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA ) request by EPIC, are heavily censored: More than half of the 188 pages have been deleted for numerous reasons, and others redacted. The remaining pages indicated that NSA contracted with Raytheon in a deal capped at $91 million to help run Perfect Citizen, which is in the fourth year of a five-year contract period.

[ Hackers already have infiltrated U.S. networks, say government officials. Read DOD: Hackers Breached U.S. Critical Infrastructure Control Systems ]

EPIC had sought contracts, memoranda and other records on Perfect Citizen after The Wall Street Journal reported in 2010 that Perfect Citizen would deploy sensors that would be triggered by network activity that suggested an impending attack on critical infrastructure networks and computers.

In an email to InformationWeek Government at the time, NSA refuted the reports that NSA would place any sensors on utility company systems, and called Perfect Citizen a "research and engineering effort." Although the documents do not mention sensors, they seem to indicate that the project goes far beyond research.

A statement of work included in the documentation details an effort that aims to understand critical infrastructure control systems to "enable the government to protect the systems." The documents indicate that NSA's interest in critical infrastructure control systems derives from the fact that "the prevention of a loss due to a cyber or physical attack is crucial to the continuity of the [Department of Defense], the [Intelligence Community], and the operation of [signals intelligence] systems."

Perfect Citizen includes the study of "interfaces and communication between significant components" of specific critical infrastructure control systems; work to discover vulnerabilities of those systems and attached devices; and demonstration of exploits. The project also includes the development of best practices to defend against these vulnerabilities.

Details of labor requirements show a team of 28, including software, hardware and embedded systems engineers; systems administrators; penetration testers; and others experienced in a broad array of technologies. Those technologies and areas of expertise include C, assembly and similar languages; TCP/IPO protocols or SQL programming; hardware testing and lab equipment; and familiarity with broader software and hardware development processes.

Specifically, the penetration tester positions required experience with a number of common penetration testing and other security tools, such as Nmap, Tenable Network Security's Nessus, dsniff, Libnet, Netcat, and network sniffers and fuzzers.

NSA cited national security as the primary reason for its redactions, noting that some of the redacted information has been classified Top Secret. "Its disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security," NSA said, noting that such classification exempts it from FOIA disclosure. Other information has been redacted for privacy and confidentiality reasons.

According to the documents, the statement of work for Perfect Citizen was issued in September 2009, and the contract was awarded to Raytheon in June 2010. Thus, the project will continue through at least June 2015 if work continues for the full five-year contract.

InformationWeek's 2013 Government IT Innovators program will feature the most innovative government IT organizations in the 2013 InformationWeek 500 issue and on InformationWeek.com. Does your organization have what it takes? The nomination period for 2013 Government IT Innovators closes April 12.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
John Foley
50%
50%
John Foley,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/10/2013 | 4:08:49 PM
re: Documents Detail NSA's 'Perfect Citizen' Cybersecurity Work
Is anyone surprised, or alarmed, that NSA is evaluating potential vulnerabilities in US infrastructure? There's a race underway to see who will discover the gaps first -- people who are looking after the health of US infrastructure or those who would do it harm. If not the NSA, then possibly a foreign adversary. Private sector companies have a big responsibility here, and more will be required by presidential order or legislation. Public-private collaboration and info sharing are already happening to a degree, but much more needs to be done.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-5427
Published: 2015-03-29
Johnson Controls Metasys 4.1 through 6.5, as used in Application and Data Server (ADS), Extended Application and Data Server (aka ADX), LonWorks Control Server 85 LCS8520, Network Automation Engine (NAE) 55xx-x, Network Integration Engine (NIE) 5xxx-x, and NxE8500, allows remote attackers to read pa...

CVE-2014-5428
Published: 2015-03-29
Unrestricted file upload vulnerability in unspecified web services in Johnson Controls Metasys 4.1 through 6.5, as used in Application and Data Server (ADS), Extended Application and Data Server (aka ADX), LonWorks Control Server 85 LCS8520, Network Automation Engine (NAE) 55xx-x, Network Integratio...

CVE-2014-9205
Published: 2015-03-29
Stack-based buffer overflow in the PmBase64Decode function in an unspecified demonstration application in MICROSYS PROMOTIC stable before 8.2.19 and PROMOTIC development before 8.3.2 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code by providing a large amount of data.

CVE-2015-0528
Published: 2015-03-29
The RPC daemon in EMC Isilon OneFS 6.5.x and 7.0.x before 7.0.2.13, 7.1.0 before 7.1.0.6, 7.1.1 before 7.1.1.2, and 7.2.0 before 7.2.0.1 allows local users to gain privileges by leveraging an ability to modify system files.

CVE-2015-0996
Published: 2015-03-29
Schneider Electric InduSoft Web Studio before 7.1.3.4 SP3 Patch 4 and InTouch Machine Edition 2014 before 7.1.3.4 SP3 Patch 4 rely on a hardcoded cleartext password to control read access to Project files and Project Configuration files, which makes it easier for local users to obtain sensitive info...

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Good hackers--aka security researchers--are worried about the possible legal and professional ramifications of President Obama's new proposed crackdown on cyber criminals.