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NSA activates Cybersecurity Directorate to protect weapons, industrial base

By Sommer Brokaw
NSA activates Cybersecurity Directorate to protect weapons, industrial base
The National Security Agency on Tuesday activated its new Cybersecurity Directorate, which will have a focus on weapon security and protecting the nations defense industrial base. Pictured, NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. Photo courtesy of National Security Agency

Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The National Security Agency on Tuesday launched a Cybersecurity Directorate to bring the agency's foreign intelligence and cyberdefense missions together.

The new directorate will focus initially on the defense industrial base and the weapon's security improvement, the agency said, calling it an effort to "unify as a nation against our threats."

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"The Cybersecurity Directorate will reinvigorate NSA's white hat mission by sharing critical threat information and collaborating with partners and customers to better equip them to defend against malicious cyber activity," the agency said in a statement.

NSA Director General Paul Nakasone tapped Anne Neuberger, who has been leading the NSA's "Russia Small Group," a joint NSA-Cyber Command task force to combat Russian election interference, in July to head the new cybersecurity arm.

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"Integrating all of our cyber mission so there's one focus," is the goal, Neuberger said regarding the new directorate. "Sharing all our unclassified information as early as possible, as quickly as possible, so we can target that sharing to the right entity and then partner with DHS [Department of Homeland Security] on critical infrastructure ... to build the security of that sector."

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The NSA has had a cyberdefense organization, the Information Assurance Directorate, for decades to safeguard the government's classified and sensitive networks, and when asked, the private sector's networks as well.

NSA officials said what's new is putting together threat detection, cyberdefense and future technologies personnel under one roof to more closely align its offensive and defensive operations.

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"If you build secure products, it is so much easier and less costly to defend," Neuberger said.

The President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee warned in a 56-page report to the White House last year that the United States will see more severe and destructive cyberattacks over the next decade than it has faced to date.

The committee had urged the Trump administration to make cybersecurity a top priority, adopting the term "Cybersecurity Moonshot Initiative," likening it to the mission to put a man on the moon in 1969.

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In May 2018, the Trump administration had already began streamlining cybersecurity with the elimination of the cybersecurity coordinator position on the National Security council, which former National Security Advisor John Bolton said at the time was no longer necessary.

Abut a month later, Chinese hackers breached a U.S. Navy contractor's sensitive data, including secret plan to develop a a supersonic anti-missile to use on U.S. submarines by 2020, calling attention to cybersecurity needs.

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