- Update: Banks are asking customers to closely monitor their online bank accounts to prevent cyber robberies
- In July 2010, it was discovered that the federal government is set to launch the "Perfect Citizen" program to protect the nation's infrastructure
- The announcement comes on the heels of a call for security and a security breach in the intelligence community
- There are concerns Perfect Citizen may be used to spy on us
Instead of holding up tellers at gunpoint, modern day bank robbers are hacking into online bank accounts. Bank “cyber robbery” has become so common that the American Bankers Association (ABA) is asking customers to keep a close eye on their individual online bank accounts.
About 80 percent of US households now do their banking online, and cyber robbery has grown into a multibillion dollar industry. Internet robbers gain access to account numbers, login information and other personal information in order to quietly steal funds from online accounts. In a 2009 ABA survey, 85 percent of the large banks contacted reported losses due to cyber attacks on consumer online accounts.
Although banks invest heavily in online security, the ABA says they need their customers’ help to keep cyber robbers at bay. Customers should check their online accounts daily and contact their bank immediately if they spot any unauthorized or suspicious transactions.
How much are you willing to give to help make sure you and your family are safe from an explosion at a nuclear power plant or collisions between subway trains? A new federal program may make you think seriously about this question.
The "Perfect Citizen" Is Coming
In July 2010, news broke that the federal government is ready to launch "Perfect Citizen." The program will be run by the National Security Agency (NSA), the federal agency in charge of protecting sensitive government information from foreign threats.
In a nutshell, Perfect Citizen will monitor computer networks at vital infrastructure components, such as nuclear power plants, the nation's electricity grid, utility companies (telephone, water, etc.), and train stations. What's it looking for? Increased computer and internet activity that usually comes with a cyber attack, like system overloads and shut-downs initiated over the internet.
Coincidentally, news of "Perfect Citizen" came on the heels of two security-related stories. In mid-June 2010, US Senator Lieberman introduced a new bill designed to drastically increase security in cyberspace, especially when it comes to the nation's infrastructure. If enacted, the law would give the President the power to take "emergency action" to protect key resources.
In mid-July (just weeks before news of Perfect Citizen went public), there were reports of a security breach in the US intelligence community. A woman used several social media sites to "meet" people in the intelligence community. She got job offers and was even asked to look at a sensitive government document. The threat wasn't real - it was staged by a security consultant - but the problems uncovered by the exercise are very real.
At What Price?
There's little doubt that there's a real and urgent need for greater cyber-security, especially at critical infrastructure sites. As Senator Lieberman's colleague put it, we need to avoid a "cyber 9/11." But will we pay a hefty price?
There are concerns that Perfect Citizen could be used to monitor private companies and even you and me. It's been reported that someone connected to the project even called it "Big Brother" - the Orwellian concept of government that watches and controls everything its citizens do. It's also been stated that any privacy concerns are no greater than those posed by traffic cameras.
There's no question Perfect Citizen could be used to spy on us. If actually used that way, you can bet there'll be a flurry of lawsuits - if the abuse or misuse is discovered, that is. Right now, the best we can do is urge our elected officials in the US House of Representatives and Senate to make sure the NSA doesn't abuse or misuse Private Citizen.
Questions for Your Attorney
- How can I find out what cyber attacks, if any, have been thwarted by the federal government?
- What should I do I think hackers have broken into my work computers?
- How does Perfect Citizen fit in with the PATRIOT Act provisions?