How does the CIA keep its IT staff honest?

A look behind the CIA's networks

Be prepared to go through a lot of scrutiny if you want to work in the Central Intelligence Agency's IT department, says chief information officer Al Tarasiuk.

And it doesn't stop after you get your top secret clearance. "Once you're in, there are frequent reinvestigations, but it's just part of process here," says Tarasiuk, who also gets polygraphed regularly, though he won't be more specific.

For those senior IT managers who are the "privileged users," meaning system administrators, "there is certainly more scrutiny on you," Tarasiuk says. "It's interesting: there's so much scrutiny that a normal person might not want to put up with that. But it's part of the mission."

There's so much top secret information contained within the CIA's systems that IT plays a key infosecurity role in making sure that CIA employees are not doing anything nefarious. There's also the persistent threat of foreign government intelligence agencies trying to break into the CIA's networks and databases.

"We have a counterintelligence centre that helps us with that," Tarasiuk says. "They are very concerned about foreign intelligence services that are interested in penetrating the CIA. Because of that we pay particular attention to the kinds of things we put on our network."

The CIA's networks aren't directly connected to the internet. "We have a very closed network that's connected to an intelligence community enterprise," Tarasiuk says, "so I don't necessarily have the worries about the hackers from the internet trying to break through."

What he does have to be concerned with is those who are allowed on the CIA's networks: whether it's a simple computing oversight by a CIA analyst or a disgruntled spy intent on selling top secret intel to Chinese government officials. "Anyone who logs into any one of our systems knows they are being audited, and we look for anomalies," he says. "We always have some worries about a rogue person on a network doing this. But we can catch them."

So you have caught people? "We catch people getting into places they shouldn't go, from time to time," Tarasiuk responds.

When asked about the fact that human beings are typically the weakest link in any IT system, Tarasiuk concurs. "Nothing's perfect. The system's not perfect," he says. "Some of [the infosec alerts] might be legitimate results of why they are doing it; some might be false positives. But for the most part we feel very strongly that we can detect when someone is doing something of a malicious nature."

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 cia

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

Thomas Wailgum

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

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

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?