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July 9, 2010
Dispatch from the Utility Front: 'Perfect Citizen'
The Wall Street Journal has unearthed yet another burgeoning intrusion on America. The program is dubbed "Perfect Citizen". An interesting name since it appears to say nothing about the program.
The lead line in the article is however fairly revealing:
"The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed "Perfect Citizen" to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants, according to people familiar with the program."
Another quote indicates not everyone is buying the concept:
"The overall purpose of the [program] is our Government...feel[s] that they need to insure the Public Sector is doing all they can to secure Infrastructure critical to our National Security," said one internal Raytheon email, the text of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal. "Perfect Citizen is Big Brother."
According to the article, Raytheon (the winner of the $100 million classified contract for "Perfect Citizen") declined to comment on this e-mail.
I'm willing to concede that intercepting and/or deflecting cyberattacks does seem like a good idea. But the following quote reminds me of the intrusive nature of what is being proposed:
"A U.S. military official called the program long overdue and said any intrusion into privacy is no greater than what the public already endures from traffic cameras."
Who doesn't think traffic cameras are intrusive?
Unfortunately, specifics about the program are unavailable at this writing. Here's why:
"Because the program is still in the early stages, much remains to be worked out, such as which computer control systems will be monitored and how the data will be collected. NSA would likely start with the systems that have the most important security implications if attacked, such as electric, nuclear, and air-traffic-control systems, they said."
Finally, and most fearful, there's this:
"While the government can't force companies to work with it, it can provide incentives to urge them to cooperate, particularly if the government already buys services from that company, officials said."
Governmental coercion plus governmental intrusion. What could possible go wrong?
As the saying goes, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean people aren't actually out to get you."