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DHS use of deep packet inspection technology in new net security system raises serious privacy questions

April 26, 2013 | Telepresence Options


Story and Images by Ellen Messmer / Network World

Department of Homeland Security is preparing to deploy a much more powerful version of its EINSTEIN intrusion-detection system that can capture e-mail content and personally identifiable data.

Network World -�To protect the federal civilian agencies against cyberthreats, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is preparing to deploy a �more powerful version of its EINSTEIN intrusion-detection system that's supposed to detect attacks and malware, especially associated with e-mail. But since this version of EINSTEIN is acknowledged by DHS to be able to read electronic content, it's raising privacy concerns.

The DHS recognizes there are privacy implications and just issued a "privacy impact assessment"�report�about what it calls EINSTEIN 3 Accelerated, the intrusion detection and prevention system expected to be made available as a managed security service from ISPs to monitor the ".gov" traffic to and from civilian agencies and Executive Branch departments, such as�Treasury. DHS says EINSTEIN 3 may collect "personally identifiable information" (PII) �in some instances where this network security system will not just monitor but also prevent threats by blocking traffic in order to detect a cyberthreat or potential cyberthreat.

In its "privacy impact assessment" for EINSTEIN 3 published April 19, DHS states appropriate privacy-protection controls related to PII have been established. DHS says it has procedures in place where analysts will know how to "minimize (i.e., overwrite, redact, or replace) PII data that is not necessary to understand the cyber threat."

But EINSTEIN 3 is anticipated to include packet-inspection tools that "allow an analyst to look at the content of the threat data, which enables a more comprehensive analysis. Packet capture may contain information that could be considered PII-like malicious data from or associated with email messages or attachments," the DHS privacy-impact assessment notes.

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