NSA will unite divisions to better tackle online threats

Spying and cyberdefense will no longer be separate inside the agency.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The US' National Security Agency isn't as united as it looks at first glance. Its intelligence gathering division (the one that conducts mass surveillance and hacking) and cyberdefense groups are largely separate. And that creates real problems -- among other issues, the intel group might be exploiting security flaws that the defensive team doesn't even know about, leaving critical systems open to attack. Those walls are about to come down, however. The NSA is poised to unveil a reorganization that will merge its offensive and defensive capabilities, helping them coordinate the fight against digital threats.

The agency isn't commenting on the specifics of what the reorg will entail, although you should hear more as early as this week. However, the Washington Post hears that this may be more of a cultural shift than a technical one. The two divisions already use similar processes -- this would mostly get them talking to each other. However, it could help the cyberdefense side by giving it the ability to process vast amounts of data very quickly.

This isn't going to eliminate some of the ethical questions around the NSA's behavior, such as the belief that it holds back on important security disclosures when its spies want to use those vulnerabilities for their campaigns. However, this could prevent the US from unintentionally weakening its ability to fend off cyberattacks.