Lawmakers fail to ask NSA chief about agency's malware plans

Instead, a House subcommittee deferred questions about 'damage' of leaks to a classified briefing

General Keith Alexander (left) at a recent hearing.

General Keith Alexander (left) at a recent hearing.

U.S. lawmakers had a chance to pose questions to the director of the National Security Agency on Wednesday but declined to ask him about reports that the agency plans to install malware on millions of computers.

General Keith Alexander did not volunteer information about the reported NSA program to deploy tens of thousands of copies of surveillance malware on computers and networking devices around the world.

Committee members didn't ask him about it, either. Instead, committee members praised the soon-to-retire Alexander for his years of service at the NSA and Cyber Command. "A grateful nation salutes you," said Representative Jim Langevin, a Rhode Island Democrat.

Alexander was testifying before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, where he talked about the need for U.S. Cyber Command, the sister agency to the NSA, to get real-time cyberthreat information from U.S. businesses.

Representative Vicky Hartzler, a Missouri Republican, asked if the subcommittee would address questions about holding a briefing on the latest leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the source of the reports on the agency's malware plan.

Wednesday's hearing was focused on Cyber Command, not NSA issues, said Intelligence Subcommittee Chairman Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican. The committee would schedule a classified intelligence briefing "where we can go deeply into the damage done to our national security" by the Snowden leaks, he said.

Alexander's main focus at the hearing was to advocate for legislation that would allow U.S. businesses to share cyberthreat information with Cyber Command and other government agencies. He called on Congress to pass legislation that would protect businesses from lawsuits if they accidentally overshare information.

"We have to have a way to understand when Wall Street is under attack," Alexander said. "Right now, we get it after the fact. We get called up, it's not real time, and as a consequence, we can't defend them."

The government and businesses need to be able to share cyberthreat information "at network speed," he said.

Some privacy and digital rights groups have questioned information-sharing legislation, saying it could allow businesses to share personal information unrelated to cyberattacks.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags governmentprivacydata protectionGovernment use of ITExploits / vulnerabilitiesU.S. National Security AgencyU.S. Cyber CommandU.S. Department of DefenseU.S. House of RepresentativesJim LangevinMac ThornberryKeith AlexanderEdward SnowdenVicky Hartzler

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2019

Bitdefender’s best-in-class security solutions have been awarded Product of the Year. Get cybersecurity that 500 MILLION users already have and trust!

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?