A top National Security Agency official wants to keep tabs on national security personnel off-the-clock, in part by tracking their online habits at home. The aim is to spot behavior that might not be in America’s best interests.
Historically, some illicit activity, like downloading child pornography, has occurred on government computers and been prosecuted.
But today, the digital lives of employees cleared to access classified information extend beyond the office.
About 80 percent of the National Security Agency workforce has retired since Sept. 11, 2001, says Kemp Ensor, NSA director of security. When the millennial and Gen Y staff that now populate the spy agency get home, they go online.
“That is where were we need to be, that’s where we need to mine,” Ensor said.
Currently, managers only look for aberrant computer behavior on internal, agency-owned IT systems – it’s a practice known as “continuous monitoring.”
But the military and intelligence communities are beginning to broaden checks on cleared personnel in the physical and digital worlds. It used to be that national security workers were re-investigated only every five or 10 years.
Under the evolving “continuous evaluation” model, the government will periodically search for signs of problems through, for example, court records, financial transactions, and — if authorized — social media posts.
Ensor and other federal officials spoke April 28 about new trends in personnel security at an Intelligence and National Security Alliance symposium in Chantilly, Virginia.
On government devices, “the amount of child porn I see is just unbelievable,” said Daniel Payne, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Service. The point being, there’s a need to routinely scan agency network activity and criminal records to gauge an individual’s suitability to handle classified information.
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