The US National Security Agency (NSA) is embarking on a secret domestic surveillance project dubbed "Perfect Citizen", which is intended to monitor and protect important national infrastructure such as power grids and transport systems.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed government and industry sources, says that the NSA has awarded a $100 million contract to Raytheon, which will see secret monitoring equipment installed within U.S. networks deemed to be of national importance.
According to the WSJ, Perfect Citizen has caused some disquiet among those in the know. It could be seen as the NSA - a military combat support agency whose focus is supposed to be on external threats - carrying out massive automated surveillance of American companies and citizens. The paper quotes an internal Raytheon email as saying that "Perfect Citizen is Big Brother".
The purpose of the project is to get a clear idea of the level of threat facing American infrastructure IT. Many older systems, designed in the pre-network world, have since been hooked up to the internet for ease of use and maintenance. It is feared by some in the US intelligence/defense community that unfriendly powers and organisations are already engaged in probing these systems with a view to learning how to attack them.
The NSA's Perfect Citizen equipment would be designed to flag up unusual network events indicating an impending cyber attack, according to the WSJ. The full scope of the project remains to be determined, according to the WSJ report, with no information as yet on which companies or types of companies would be asked to cooperate or how much information the NSA would get access to.