03:27 PM
Connect Directly

Excessive Secrecy Harms National Cyber Defenses, Report Says

The Senate Armed Services Committee believes the government's new National Cyber Security Initiative is too secret to have much value as deterrence.

The Senate Armed Services Committee believes the new National Cyber Security Initiative (NCSI) is too secret to have much value as deterrence.

In excerpts from the committee's report on the 2009 defense authorization act, published by Steven Aftergood on the Federation of American Scientists secrecy blog, the committee expresses concern about the secrecy surrounding the NCSI.

"These restrictions preclude public education, awareness, and debate about the policy and legal issues, real or imagined, that the initiative poses in the areas of privacy and civil liberties," the committee's report says. "Without such debate and awareness in such important and sensitive areas, it is likely that the initiative will make slow or modest progress. The committee strongly urges the administration to reconsider the necessity and wisdom of the blanket, indiscriminate classification levels established for the initiative."

At the RSA Conference in April, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff compared the government's attempt to improve national cyber security to the intensive effort of the Manhattan Project that brought the atomic bomb to fruition.

In January, President Bush signed an order that gave DHS and the National Security Agency greater power to oversee government computer security. Details about what the agencies are doing remain classified. One aspect of the plan, Chertoff said in April, was to reduce the number of network access points into federal agencies from about 1,000 to about 50.

While secrecy remains a cornerstone of computer security inside and outside the government, the Senate committee points out that the administration aims to "develop an information warfare deterrence strategy and declaratory doctrine, much as the superpowers did during the Cold War for nuclear conflict."

That being the case, the committee argues that potential enemies will not be scared away if there's no information available to suggest the presence of formidable defenses.

"It is difficult to conceive how the United States could promulgate a meaningful deterrence doctrine if every aspect of our capabilities and operational concepts is classified," the committee report says.

To highlight the difficulty of deterrence through secrecy, Aftergood in his blog cites Dr. Strangelove: "The whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost if you keep it a secret!"

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest September 7, 2015
Some security flaws go beyond simple app vulnerabilities. Have you checked for these?
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
Published: 2015-10-09
Simple Streams (simplestreams) does not properly verify the GPG signatures of disk image files, which allows remote mirror servers to spoof disk images and have unspecified other impact via a 403 (aka Forbidden) response.

Published: 2015-10-09
The Telephony component in Apple OS X before 10.11, when the Continuity feature is enabled, allows local users to bypass intended telephone-call restrictions via unspecified vectors.

Published: 2015-10-09
IcedTea-Web before 1.5.3 and 1.6.x before 1.6.1 does not properly sanitize applet URLs, which allows remote attackers to inject applets into the .appletTrustSettings configuration file and bypass user approval to execute the applet via a crafted web page, possibly related to line breaks.

Published: 2015-10-09
IcedTea-Web before 1.5.3 and 1.6.x before 1.6.1 does not properly determine the origin of unsigned applets, which allows remote attackers to bypass the approval process or trick users into approving applet execution via a crafted web page.

Published: 2015-10-09
The Safari Extensions implementation in Apple Safari before 9 does not require user confirmation before replacing an installed extension, which has unspecified impact and attack vectors.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
What can the information security industry do to solve the IoT security problem? Learn more and join the conversation on the next episode of Dark Reading Radio.