Post-WikiLeaks Network Monitoring Takes Shape

02.21.12 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The heightened surveillance of classified government information networks that was a predictable response to the unauthorized disclosures published by WikiLeaks is becoming more clearly discernible.

“USSTRATCOM/USCYBERCOM is monitoring use of the SIPRNet and now has a mechanism for reporting certain anomalous behaviors for appropriate remediation,” said Thomas A. Ferguson, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence) and Teresa Takai, DoD Chief Information Officer.

“We have established the first formal security oversight and assessment program to determine levels of compliance” with rules of access to classified networks,” they said in response to questions for the record from a March 10, 2011 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on “Information Sharing in the Era of WikiLeaks.”

“Simply understanding that we have this monitoring capability creates deterrence of willful mischief,” they added.

“We will improve our ability to individually track users through enforcement of strong user authentication on classified networks, ensure responsible controls on removable media, and provide strong website authentication for classified fabrics — all to provide greater control over access to classified information,” wrote Corin R. Stone of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in her own answers to questions for the record from the same hearing.

“The FBI and CIA have robust insider threat programs in place for tracking the specific information accessed by users of their systems and detecting, to varying degrees, suspicious user behavior (e.g., excessive file accesses or data downloads) and alerting security personnel to take action.  Several agencies (e.g., NGA, NSA, NRO) are maturing their audit and insider threat capabilities, while others still lag behind,” Ms. Stone wrote.

“The WikiLeaks disclosures highlighted the need to ‘raise the bar’ in terms of these capabilities,” she wrote.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess said that “The potential for trusted US Government and contractor insiders using their authorized access to personnel, facilities, information, equipment, networks or information systems in order to cause great harm is becoming an increasingly serious threat to national security.”