The US National Security Agency (NSA) is to start monitoring the networks of public companies for security holes as part of 'Project Citizen,' an early warning system against online attack.
The NSA is asking for companies to install network monitoring equipment that would look for suspicious activity online.
The first stage of the program will initially focus on legacy systems in the power and nuclear industries and the work has been outsourced to Raytheon in a US$100m contract, according to an email leaked to the Wall Street Journal.
"The overall purpose of the [program] is our Government...feel[s] that they need to insure the Public Sector is doing all they can to secure Infrastructure critical to our National Security," said the Raytheon email.
"Perfect Citizen is Big Brother."
According to officials the NSA will not force companies to take part in the project, but it can offer incentives, particularly if the company is a beneficiary of government contracts. Raytheon may also be looking for partners to carry out the work according to the newspaper.
Previous attempts by the NSA to introduce monitoring equipment were revealed by AT&T whistle-blower Mark Klein and have since been ruled to be illegal. Analyst house Gartner has also warned of the dangers of such monitoring equipment.