NSA says 'Perfect Citizen' is a research program

The U.S. National Security Agency confirmed the existence of a controversial program aimed at protecting the country's critical infrastructure Thursday, but disputed claims that the program would monitor network traffic on critical infrastructure networks.

The program, called Perfect Citizen, was first disclosed Thursday in a Wall Street Journal article that said the NSA "would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity."

Raytheon won the US$100 million contract for the first phase of Perfect Citizen, which is funded by the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, the Journal reported.

In a statement released late Thursday, the NSA confirmed that Perfect Citizen exists. But the spy agency called the newspaper's description "inaccurate," saying that the program is "purely a vulnerabilities-assessment and capabilities-development contract."

"This is a research and engineering effort," the NSA said. "There is no monitoring activity involved, and no sensors are employed in this endeavor."

"This contract provides a set of technical solutions that help the National Security Agency better understand the threats to national security networks, which is a critical part of NSA's mission of defending the nation," the NSA said. "Any suggestions that there are illegal or invasive domestic activities associated with this contracted effort are simply not true."

Raytheon declined to comment.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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