NSA partners with ISPs to prevent cyberattacks on defense companies

The National Security Agency is helping defense companies prevent cyberattacks by working with their Internet service providers to filter domestic Web sites and e-mail, the Washington Post reported.

Officials told the Post that the pilot program by the nation's largest spy agency does not require direct monitoring of the contractors' networks by the government. Instead, it deploys NSA-developed codes to filter the web traffic flowing to the defense companies. Once a threat is detected, the Internet provider can thwart the cyberattack before it can penetrate the contractors' servers.

Under this voluntary program, AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink are working together to filter web traffic for 15 defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, CSC, SAIC, and Northrop Grumman, the Post reported.

"We hope the... cyber pilot can be the beginning of something bigger," Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said at a global security conference in Paris on Thursday. "It could serve as a model that can be transported to other critical infrastructure sectors, under the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security."

The trial program began last month. "No single agency can tackle the required issues," Lynn said. "No one nation can devise or enforce a sustainable solution. And no combination of nations can succeed without partnering with private-sector companies. The range of actions necessary to enhance cybersecurity will require engagement in our defense institutions, across our governments, between our nations, and between the public and private sectors."

"In short," Lynn continued, "we must work together, as everyone -- from ordinary citizens, to the owners and operators of critical infrastructure, to our warfighters on the front lines -- has a stake in cybersecurity."