Reuters has an interesting story about the NSA helping U.S. banks defend against foreign cyber attacks by providing them with “technical expertise.” According to the article, the NSA has already been helping NASDAQ protect against hackers. The government appears to consider the the threat of cyber attack against the nation’s financial infrastructure to be serious enough to warrant increasing the NSA’s public profile. As the article notes, “The NSA’s work with Wall Street marks a milestone in the agency’s efforts to make its cyber intelligence available more broadly to the private sector. For years, the spy agency kept such a low profile that some joked that its name stood for ‘No Such Agency’ or ‘Never Say Anything.’”
The NSA’s move into this area (which has been going on for some time now — see, e.g., Google’s request for help last year) seems driven by a recognition of its unique expertise relative to other government agencies, and indeed the private sector itself. Former NSA director Michael Hayden made this point in front of the House Intelligence Committee earlier this month when he urged a larger role for the NSA in monitoring and protecting the nation’s cyber infrastructure, repeating earlier suggestions by former Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn last year (see Jack’s post).