Does the U.S. really need a cyber intelligence center to be able to more effectively handle cyberthreats and digital breaches to business and industry as well as government agencies? The Obama administration believes that the country does. According to Reuters, Lisa Monaco, White House advisor for homeland security and counterterrorism, explained that “we need to develop the same muscle memory in the government response to cyberthreats as we have for terrorist incidents.”
While federal task forces currently investigate hacking networks, no one government entity is accountable for coordinating and sharing cyberthreat data collected by the National Security Agency, the Pentagon, the FBI, Homeland Security and other federal agencies. Under the domain of the Director of National Intelligence, the proposed Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center would fill this void. It will be modeled on the National Counterterrorism Center launched after the 9/11 attacks in response to criticism of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies who failed to share information that could have helped to prevent them.
In recent years, a number of cyber attacks have impacted the government and U.S. companies. This includes Home Depot Inc., Target Corp., Anthem Inc., JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and the White House’s computer network. The attack that Monaco called a “game changer” was the attack on Sony Pictures that the FBI publicly accused North Korea of launching. This attack was especially troubling, because hackers incapacitated computers, stole crucial data and pressured the studio to stop the release of a film that took a comedic look at North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. According to the Los Angeles Times, recent attacks have also come from servers in Syria, Iran, Russia and China.
Skeptics of the proposed cyber intelligence center such as Melissa Hathaway (president of Hathaway Global Strategies and former White House cybersecurity coordinator) suggest that creating a new agency is not needed when the government already has existing agencies that monitor and analyze cyberthreat information. In a Washington Post article, Hathaway recommends that existing agencies be held accountable and forced to become more efficient.
Others believe that a greater focus on cyberthreats by the Obama administration is needed. Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official, believes it’s a good idea that is long overdue. Scott Larson, a former FBI cybercrime investigator who now operates a cybersecurity company in Minnesota, sees the U.S. in an intellectual arms race that requires it to act.
Given the preceding viewpoints as well as the pace of cyber attacks increasing fivefold since 2009 based on Los Angeles Times research, the U.S. does need to be more proactive in its response to cyberthreats. In doing so, the creation of a new agency makes sense as long as it clearly provides needed resources in an efficient, coordinated manner thereby preventing an increase in bureaucracy.
(Photo: Cyber Attacks in Real Time, Flickr)