White House Announces New Intelligence Unit to Track Cyberthreats

U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees work during a guided media tour inside the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia in this file photo taken on June 26, 2014. (PHOTO CREDIT: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees work during a guided media tour inside the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Arlington, Virginia in this file photo taken on June 26, 2014. (PHOTO CREDIT: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Calling the destructive cyberattack on Sony Pictures “a game changer,” a top White House official on Tuesday announced a new intelligence unit to coordinate analysis of cyberthreats, modeled on similar U.S. government efforts to fight terrorism.

Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, said the new agency will rapidly pool and disseminate data on cyberbreaches, which she said are ballooning in size and sophistication, to U.S. agencies.

“Currently, no single government entity is responsible for producing coordinated cyber threat assessments” and sharing the information rapidly, Monaco said in remarks at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington.

The new agency, the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, “is intended to fill these gaps,” she said.

Obama has moved cybersecurity to the top of his 2015 agenda after recent hacking attacks against Sony, Home Depot Inc, Anthem Inc and Target Corp as well as the federal government itself.

U.S. officials have described the Sony attack as particularly worrying because hackers stole data, debilitated computers and pressured the studio to halt release of a satirical film about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The FBI took the unusual step of publicly accusing North Korea of being behind the cyberattack.

Obama will host a “cyber summit” with industry and government leaders at Stanford University in California on Friday.

Industry executives lauded Obama’s increased focus on cybersecurity, but some questioned whether a new government agency is the answer, and whether it should be part of the secretive U.S. intelligence community.

Responsibility for cybersecurity is already spread across the U.S. government, including the National Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and the U.S. military’s Cyber Command.

“Is this going to be effective? Is it another reorg(anization)?” said Amit Yoran, president of security firm RSA.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Reuters, Warren Strobel