U.S: Cyber Security Agency

Today is Safer Internet Day, a day dedicated to spreading awareness for responsible use of internet-connected devices and mobile phones, mainly among young children and teens.

So it's only fitting that today the Obama administration will announce the establishment of a new government agency dedicated to combating the deepening threat of cyberattacks. It's mission is to collect and analyze intelligence from various government agencies when a crisis occurs.

After the 9/11 attacks, the government faced criticism that they failed to share intelligence among different agencies that could have unraveled the al-Qaeda plot. In response to this, the government established the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to do just that. Recently, the United States has seen a dramatic rise in cyberattacks targeted at both the networks of government and private-sector businesses. Disruptions, linked to Iran, of major bank websites, a Russian intrusion into the White House's unclassified computer network and the North Korean hack of Sony Pictures, have shown the devastating effect of an attack on poorly managed critical infrastructures.

Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, will announce today the creation of the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC). "The cyberthreat is one of the greatest threats we face, and policy makers and operators will benefit from having a rapid source of intelligence" Monaco said in an interview.

As good as this may sound, many others question why a new agency is needed in the first place. The United States already has the CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the NSA, and these institutions already have the ability to integrate information.

The reason behind this seems to be that when Monaco called together the above agencies in the wake of the Sony Pictures hack, they all pointed their fingers to North Korea, but they each had a different degree of certainty. Monaco states that if there was a dedicated agency for producing the analysis of these views, in the way the NCTC does for counterterrorism, then we could pinpoint the route of the problem more efficiently.

Although this seems to be a step in the right direction, I can't help but feel that it will only help in explaining cyberattacks, not preventing them altogether. Just remember, there were over 600 data breaches on U.S businesses exposing more than 80 million records in 2014, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

I always like to think of these developments in cyber-security on a personal level to determine some degree of effectiveness. Imagine one day you receive an email explaining the company's network has been hacked and your personal information may be compromised. A week later it's determined that your information was among those that have been stolen but the company, alongside help with the CTIIC, successfully tracked the source to a hacker organization hiding out somewhere in Iran. That's all well and good, but by now your credit cards are on the black market and you haven't taken any steps to protect yourself from identity fraud.

It is interesting to see the federal government stepping in this direction, but for now the best protection you can have against these attacks is knowledge of preventing them and the willingness to act when that information has been compromised. It also doesn't help that most of us post so much personal information online for everyone to see, but I'll leave that topic for another post...