A Push in Cyber Security Calls for Scanning Private Sector Web Use

By Nicole Spector March 27, 2013

While the U.S. government probably doesn't care about all the time you spend on Reddit trolling cat memes while on the job, now may be the time to reel that careless Web surfing in a bit – that is, for your own country's safety.

Under an executive order passed last month, the Obama Administration is expanding its cybersecurity program to include scanning of Internet traffic in the private sector. 

The Web and e-mail activity within major banks, utility companies and transportation organizations will now be officially scanned as a precaution against espionage threats and other hacking attempts. If this sounds absurd, consider this: U.S spy chiefs currently claim that cyber attacks have supplanted terrorism as the top threat to the country. Can we get a “wow”?

So computers could be the end us of after all – just not the way we dreamed it in sci-fi nightmares.

Whatever data the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) collects from these scans will be held as secret, and turned over to a group of telecommunication companies and cyber security providers in charge of holding security clearances.

Intelligence from the National Security Agency (NSA) will be driving the investigation.

Citizens have long been wary of an invasion of their privacy by the NSA. By planting the DHS between private sector workers and the spy agency, the Obama Administration hopes to bring NSA's wealth of overseas intelligence-gathering closer to home, without shaking anyone up too much.

A DHS official said that data won't be relayed to the government except in aggregate statistics. Like any good spy, the official refused to be identified. Procedures are to be established within six months of the order.

And this may only be the beginning. The Obama Administration is also seeking legislation that would give incentives to private companies to disclose more to the government.  

Edited by Braden Becker

Contributing Writer

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