New US cyber defense agency to 'connect the dots'

Plans for the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center were to be outlined later Tuesday by Lisa Monaco, a special adviser to President Barack Obama for homeland security.

The new entity "will be a national cyber threat intelligence center that will 'connect the dots' between various cyber threats to the nation so that relevant departments and agencies are aware of these threats in as close to real time as possible," the official said.

The mission will be similar to the that of the National Counterterrorism Center -- to integrate data on foreign cyber threats and ensure that US government centers responsible for cybersecurity have access to intelligence and tools to respond to threats.

The US is launching a new cyber intelligence center to protect critical computer networks

The US is launching a new cyber intelligence center to protect critical computer networks ©Michael Bocchieri (Getty/AFP/File)

The new center "will improve our situational awareness, enhance indications and warning, and strengthen cyber unity of effort for the US government," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It will ensure indicators of malicious activity are downgraded to the lowest possible classification level to facilitate seamless intelligence flows among centers, including those responsible for sharing with the private sector."

The move comes with the Obama administration aiming to step up cyber defense in the wake of the massive attack on Sony Pictures and data breaches affecting tens of millions of Americans.

US officials have blamed North Korea for the hacking of Sony, and some analysts believe other data breaches are linked to China or Russia.

Obama has launched a fresh effort to persuade Congress to pass legislation to encourage better cooperation between the government and private sector, an effort stalled since his first proposal in 2011.

Earlier efforts on cybersecurity legislation have stalled amid opposition from civil libertarians who feared it could allow too much government snooping and conservatives who argued it would create a new bureaucracy.

One contentious part of the proposal is a shield of liability for companies that share information about cyber threats with the Department of Homeland Security.

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