Can you access protected networks without breaking a sweat? Does just thinking about security exploits get you hot and bothered? Are "spoofing" and "packet sniffing" part of your regular vocabulary? If you answered "Yes" to those questions, and you can prove your hacking prowess at the upcoming DEFCON convention, you may just wind up getting a job offer (and a pension plan) from government agencies like the NSA.
Are you worried Fermi is going to make your GeForce 8800 look a bit long in the tooth? Well just be glad you're not stuck trying to run Crysis on the Secret Service's mainframe featuring state of the art technology from the 1980's. A classified review of the aging computer system has revealed that the system is now only operational about 60 percent of the time, and frequently prevents them from accessing the master database of mission critical information and apps.
"We have here a premiere law enforcement organization in our country which is responsible for the security of the president and the vice president and other officials of our government, and they have to have better IT than they have," said Lieberman, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Currently the NSA runs 42 mission-oriented applications on a 1980s IBM mainframe, and are hideously underpowered based on the agencies current requirements.
The price tag for updating the system is a mere $187 million, and far below the $33 million they currently have in the budget. If I were president, I would probably check the seat cushions on Air Force One to make up the difference, they are charged with saving his life after all.
With the release of its latest OS, Microsoft appears to have put security at the forefront of the design phase. So much so that the National Security Agency (NSA) had a hand in helping the software maker lock down its operating system, a senior NSA official said on Tuesday.
"Working in partnership with Microsoft and [the Department of Defense], NSA leveraged our unique expertise and operational knowledge of system threats and vulnerabilities to enhance Microsoft's operating system security guide without constraining the user's ability to perform their everyday tasks," Richard Schaeffer, the NSA's Information Assurance Director, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a statement prepared for a hearing held in Washington. "All this was done in coordination with the product release, not months or years later in the product cycle."
The NSA and Microsoft working together is not exactly a new venture. Back in 2007, NSA officials confirmed they had also lent a hand during the development of VIsta, but the collaboration goes even further back. In 2005, the NSA and other government agencies assisted Microsoft in securing Windows XP and other programs.
Of course, the NSA is probably best known for its electronic eavesdropping operations, and we can't wait to see what the conspiracy theorists have to say about the organization's involvement with Windows.
The National Security Agency is facing renewed scrutiny over its domestic surveillance program, and Congress is now claiming that their powers may go too far. A review of recent telephone and email intercepts seems to suggest that the agency may be monitoring the conversations of everyday Americans far more than they let on. Longstanding legal issues aside, the N.S.A, as of last year, is expected to only monitor the private communications of US citizens if it can be demonstrated that it was done so as an incidental byproduct of investigating individuals abroad.
Even more troubling, in April, it was disclosed that intercepts of private American communications were far beyond the legal limits for both late 2008 and early 2009, and the extent of the problem is still being investigated. Further supporting evidence was provided by a former N.S.A analyst who claims he was trained in 2005 to use specialized email monitoring software, an application which intelligence officials confirms is still in operation. New Jersey Democratic representative Rush Holt admitted that “Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental”, but still admits, few lawmakers can deal with the issues because of the technical complexities of the operation. “The people making the policy,” he said, “don’t understand the technicalities.”
It’s easy to see that trying to distinguish between domestic and foreign email correspondence can be difficult, but is the privacy trade off worth the added security benefit? Let us know what you think.