Although a sophisticated system called Einstein 3 is in development to detect and prevent electronic attacks on federal civilian networks, a senior Homeland Security official gave assurances Wednesday that the department has no intention of reading contents of e-mails or other communications.
Instead, the department wants to have the system determine whether electronic communications entering the networks contain viruses or other attack signatures, the official said.
Einstein 3 is expected to deal solely with federal civilian networks. The Defense Department is responsible for protecting military networks.
But so far, Homeland Security officials have provided little information publicly about the reach of Einstein 3, stoking concerns by privacy and civil rights groups that the government might ultimately intend to read and store the contents of electronic communications produced by U.S. citizens.