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General Dynamics sees more demand for 'insider' cyber protection

General Dynamics Corp Vice President Nadia Short speaks at the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington May 13, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - General Dynamics Corp, a key provider of cyber services for the U.S. government, said recent high-profile cyberattacks were boosting demand from government agencies for better protections against breaches by so-called insiders.

Nadia Short, vice president and general manager of cyber systems for General Dynamics' Mission Systems business, told Reuters in an interview this week the well-publicized hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment had galvanized interest in the security of U.S. government and industry computer networks.

She said the Sony attack, which Washington has blamed on North Korea, was resonating with the American public in a way that earlier attacks on private companies had not, and could boost the prospects for passage of cybersecurity legislation.

Short welcomed President Barack Obama's push for cybersecurity legislation and greater sharing of information by industry and government about potential threats.

She said continued cyberattacks and the large number of documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden were prompting government agencies to beef up security against outside attackers as well as the so-called insider threat.

Four or five government agencies have requested information or proposals over the last six months focused on insider threat detection, Short said. She declined to name the agencies.

Short said insider attacks were difficult to eliminate completely, but the company offered services that could detect unusual behaviors that almost always preceded such incidents. The company also does forensic studies when breaches occur and offers network encryption devices, she said.

Even tracking printer use at unusual times or thermostat activity could help officials predict abnormal behaviors.

While U.S. military spending has declined in recent years, demand for cybersecurity has remained stable and even grown significantly in some areas, Short said.

Like other defense contractors, General Dynamics has found it difficult to penetrate the commercial market, but Short said there was growing demand in the government sector.

Short said the company's decision last fall to combine its cyber and engineering services units had given her division more breadth, access to more expertise and to new customers, and the ability to engineer more comprehensive security solutions.

"Across the board, I see this as still being a growth area for us," Short said. She declined to provide details about the amount of revenue generated in the cyber business, but said General Dynamics planned to increase investment in the sector and would likely hire more workers this year.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editi)