Morning Security Brief: Obama Says No to Defunding NSA, Snowden Can Leave Airport, Ports Vulnerable to Cyberattack

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge

►President Barack Obama says that a proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives to defund the National Security Agency's collection of citizens' phone data is the wrong thing to do but that he is open to debate on the issue. "We oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community's counter-terrorism tools," said a statement from President Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney. "In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens.”

►The Russian state news agency says that Edward Snowden has been given the necessary documents to leave Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. He has been in the transit zone of the airport for more than a month, after leaving Hong Kong. He has applied for temporary asylum in Russia.President Vladimir Putin has said that Snowden’s application might be accepted if he stops leaking NSA secrets.

►A new study by the Brookings Institute, The Critical Infrastructure Gap: U.S. Port Facilities and Cyber Vulnerabilities, finds that ports reliance on networked computer control systems leaves them ripe for cyberattacks. “Today, U.S. port facilities rely as much upon networked computer and control systems as they do upon stevedores to ensure the flow of maritime commerce that the economy, homeland, and national security depend upon. Yet, unlike other sectors of critical infrastructure, little attention has been paid to the networked systems that undergird port operations. No cybersecurity standards have been promulgated for U.S. ports, nor has the U.S. Coast Guard, the lead federal agency for maritime security, been granted cybersecurity authorities to regulate ports or other areas of maritime critical infrastructure," writes the author of the report, Coast Guard Commander Joseph Kramek, who is servicing as a federal executive fellow at Brookings (the paper notes that the views expressed in the report are those of the author and not of the Coast Guard itself).  “In the end, the research shows that the level of cybersecurity awareness and culture in U.S. port facilities is relatively low. In most ports, basic cybersecurity hygiene measures are not being practiced. Of the ports studied, only one had conducted a cybersecurity vulnerability assessment, and not a single one had developed a cyber incident response plan.”


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