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9/26/2013
03:58 PM
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NSA Chief: Don't Dump Essential Security Tools

Gen. Keith Alexander defends National Security Agency practices, argues for advances in cybersecurity cooperation.

Turning to cybersecurity concerns, Alexander warned that this past year's distributed denial of service attacks on Wall Street and South Korean banks reflect the ever-increasing sophistication and skill of the nation's adversaries in cyberspace.

"The most important thing we can do is train our people with the technical skills that really matter," he said, noting that a third of the workforce at U.S. Cyber Command has gone through advanced technical training this year, with the rest of the workforce due to complete training by 2015. Part of that training includes Cyber Guard and Cyber Flag exercises, involving teams from the NSA, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the National Guard that focus on joint operations in cyberspace.

"This is a threat we have to address," and it's one [that] senior military officials are taking seriously, as evidenced by their continued investment in cyber operations even as sequestration is forcing them to cut billions of dollars from their defense budgets, Alexander said.

"The thing we have to fix," he said, is "the need for a defensible architecture" across the Defense Department. "The legacy architecture we have today has a number of problems," most notably the difficulty of seeing what's going on across 15,000 IT and communications systems being maintained across the military.

Alexander is among the military's strongest advocates for moving toward a thin-client, cloud-based computing environment. He refuted the assumption that "having your information in 15,000 enclaves is somehow more defensible," arguing for the ability to centrally identify vulnerabilities, administer patches, monitor activity and protect the network from cyber attacks.

Alexander also appealed for support for legislation that would make it easier for the government and the private sector to share cyber threat information, but which faces opposition in Congress out of concern that such an arrangement would undermine civil liberties and impose added burdens on business.

"We can tell (banks and other businesses) how their systems went down and how bad they were hit, but if we can't share information with industry," which owns most of the nation's critical infrastructure, "we can't stop" the attacks without greater cooperation, he said.

As for actions the NSA has taken to address insider threats, following the Snowden leaks, Alexander said the NSA has instituted "a two-person rule" requiring two authorized individuals to be present whenever specific kinds of information are to be transferred from servers or onto removable media.

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WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/1/2013 | 8:02:01 PM
re: NSA Chief: Don't Dump Essential Security Tools
One wonders whether we may be on the path to -- or citizens need to star - a revolution that leads to us individuals having the rights to the data we generate. The notion that humans are merely sources of data to be exploited is a discouraging thought about how data, like wealth, is bringing power to a few, instead of the many.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/30/2013 | 11:28:08 AM
re: NSA Chief: Don't Dump Essential Security Tools
Alexander says "we are going to have a debate." But we can't have a debate about this. The NSA won't say what it is doing, how it is doing it or what information it is collecting (of course without Snowden's documents, the NSA would say it isn't doing anything that may skirt the rules). Right now it is a one sided debate: the only information is coming from Snowden.
Faye Kane, homeless brain
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Faye Kane, homeless brain,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/28/2013 | 9:58:11 AM
re: NSA Chief: Don't Dump Essential Security Tools
==-
"The loudest sound in the world is the last heartbeat."
GÇöBrueghel, in Headroom

I had a friend who's father died of a heart attack and it occurred to me that his family could get a display of his final heartbeat like in Kubrick's 2001 when the hybernauts died.

Now I see that they couldn't have, because his last heartbeat is owned by a corporation.

Even though we have huge flat TVs on the wall, The Future sure didn't turn out to be like on The Jetsons. It turned out to be like on Max Headroom.

-- faye kane
Faye Kane, homeless brain
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Faye Kane, homeless brain,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/28/2013 | 8:57:34 AM
re: NSA Chief: Don't Dump Essential Security Tools
==-
There's a logical exception to Goodwin's Law when it's not hyperbole in a discussion of drug laws, but refers to an extant secret police doing the same illegal things and telling the same lies about it as Nazis, the Stazi, or the Red Chinese.

-faye kane GÖÇ girl brain
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/27/2013 | 9:07:42 PM
re: NSA Chief: Don't Dump Essential Security Tools
Absolutely. People are always amazed when I tell them about the patient who had no right to the data generated by the smart pacemaker installed inside his own body. Even though the pacemaker was simply measuring and transmitting what the patient's body was doing, those measures belonged to the pacemaker manufacturer. That's nuts.

I've actually heard a few execs at very big companies suggest that all this health data could lead to a health care system in which each patient is assigned a rating that dictates how much he or she pays for services. Sort of like a credit score for you health. It's one of the most dystopian things I've ever heard.
WKash
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WKash,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/27/2013 | 8:42:09 PM
re: NSA Chief: Don't Dump Essential Security Tools
You right on both counts: The stakes (and the pressure to connect the dots to counter terrorism) are incredibly high; and government's record of program abuses has engendered little reason for trust.

But if American's are so upset with their government, they might also reserve some of their anger and angst at the vast amounts of information that the private sector routinely vacuums up about most citizens in this country. I would bet that what marketers know about me, or the mosaic version of me, is arguably more extensive and even less transparent than what the analysts at Ft. Meade know about me.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/27/2013 | 1:50:50 PM
re: NSA Chief: Don't Dump Essential Security Tools
Whenever we play the Hitler/Nazi card, we've abandoned the ability to talk about matters reasonably.
dbtinc
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dbtinc,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/27/2013 | 1:17:34 PM
re: NSA Chief: Don't Dump Essential Security Tools
This from the american version of the KGB and Abwehr of old ... wake up citizens! Our government is in the control of the special interests, robber barons and banksters. Look around and if you are satisfied with what our government does both domestically and internationally you may retreat back to your cocoon.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/27/2013 | 7:32:40 AM
re: NSA Chief: Don't Dump Essential Security Tools
"We're going to have a debate in this country on do we give up those tools. I'm concerned we're going to make the wrong choice." This strikes me as a sentiment that a number of the the Founding Fathers would take issue with.

I can appreciate that when you're discussing terrorism, the stakes are so incredibly high that guys like Alexander are always going to err on the side of more surveillance and less transparency. I have no doubt that more than a few in the top-secret intelligence community consider the stakes so high that the people simply cannot be trusted with the decision. They see what happened in Kenya and wonder when the same thing, or worse, will happen somewhere in the United States. That's the vibe I get from Alexander.

But even if Alexander's motivations are pure as snow, programs like this don't have a great track record. They almost always escalate, and they always give unethical people - something we have in great supply - an opportunity to do unethical things.
Railroader
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Railroader,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/27/2013 | 12:46:20 AM
re: NSA Chief: Don't Dump Essential Security Tools
Hitler and the SS Said they needed to do what they did, in the interest of Security.

Benjamin Franklin's warning: "Those who can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
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