Financial blackouts like that one might be survivable, but that doesn't mean the U.S. financial system isn't under even more threat than most other industries because taking down Wall Street would have a serious impact on the overall U.S. economy, according to NSA Director Keith Alexander in an interview with Reuters.
NSA tries to lock down Pentagon, Wall Street
The NSA is actually a wing of the U.S. military, not an independent agency like the CIA or FBI. It is also responsible for managing the Pentagon's service-wide efforts at cyber security, according to Alexander, a four-star Army general who probably shouldn't be bragging about that part of his job, given the almost-failing grade the Pentagon got on its cybersecurity efforts this summer.
In a report that sounded more disappointed than accusatory, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) summarized 20 years worth of steadily increasing hackage on the military and civilian companies in the U.S. and the fractured, ineffective, unfocused way the military has dealt with them.
"There is no penalty for attacking us now. We have to figure out a way to change that," said Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a July press conference announcing a new, more aggressive cybersecurity strategy for the Pentagon overall.
That effort, in which the NSA has a larger role than during previous attempts to lock the backdoor, and the formation of the U.S. Cyber Command to be a central strategy and training unit for the military overall are both positive steps, according to the GAO report.
Neither solves the pattern of miscommunication, conflicting doctrines and un-integrated security efforts that have left the US. military's digital curtain wall so full of holes, the report concluded.
The NSA, on the other hand, is good enough at both attack and defense (or at least defense and not talking about being attacked) that its security is the opposite of legendary. No one has anything to say about it because few are ever able to lift the security cover far enough to see how heavy it is, let alone what might be inside.
So the banking industry could have picked a worse mentor in the cyber-security business.
Other industries might seem to deserve the help more, given that their collective behavior has been less arrogant, less destructive and less careless about any economic or IT security but their own.
It makes sense to put more effort on the most vulnerable spots, however. And in the U.S., the financial services industry is a big, fat, soft target.
Reuters: Jason Reed